So, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been riding a lot this year. This isn’t terribly unusual for me, especially between Copper’s Lyme disease and Paige’s pregnancy, plus the adorable distractions that are Poppy and Joey. Between my lack of riding and Paige’s lack of exercise, we knew that the clinic would be challenging when it came to loping, but I wasn’t terribly worried about anything else.
Warning…this is lengthy.
Paige has been at K’s for three weeks or so, and during that time she’s put on a good amount of weight, but not a lot of muscle since I wasn’t riding her to keep the weight from disappearing. I did squeeze in two rides while she was at K’s (not including the trail ride), but I didn’t expect her to morph into a magically fit and balanced pony by Saturday.
Saturday morning was pretty uneventful. Both of our horses load and unload easily and make for pretty stress free travelling, so w ended up having plenty of time. K and I both like to be early, so we got to the clinic an hour and fifteen minutes prior to when we were supposed to be tacked up and ready. We wandered around, helped move the trail obstacles out to the area that they were to be set up, sat and talked a while, etc. We ended up having the clinic at the rain location since the outdoor that had been scheduled was a muddy mess from the onslaught of rain we (FINALLY) received. Unfortunately, this messed up the schedule for the organizer as the indoor was a little small for all 11 of us to ride in, especially considering some of the horses who showed up for the clinic.
Speaking of horses that showed up for the clinic…there were eight of us who has pretty broke horses and could’ve worked on some fairly advanced things. Of the eight, Paige and I were the worst as far as not being prepared for the clinic was concerned (mainly at the lope). The other three participants showed up when we were supposed to start…so we waited on them to get ready to start, then, we started with trail obstacles first…for reasons that I don’t know. These three participants had horses that weren’t at the same level as the rest of us…and I don’t say that from a snobby perspective. One gelding acted like he might rear and screamed every time his buddy left him, another attempted to double barrel kick horses who weren’t remotely close to him, and the third had no brakes and a teenager riding him who was obviously scared of him. These three slowed down the day for everyone and kept us from working on as much as we would’ve otherwise.
Due to the indoor being smallish, the trail obstacles were set up out in the parking area that ended up being too muddy for anyone (minus K/me plus another woman…we almost got stuck) to park in. So our trucks/trailers formed a boundary around the trail course pretty much, which was okay I guess. We managed to get out easily, and really that’s what matters.
Before they started the actual instruction, we rode around in the indoor waiting on things to start happening. Paige was pretty chill and only had a few ants in her pants. 😉 We worked walk/trot in there for a while before riding outside to scope out the trail course that was being set up. We wanted to practice the bridge before everyone was watching us. K’s horse has issues with faux bridges out places, but does fine with his faux bridge at home and with real bridges on trail rides, so she wanted to play with it a little bit before the clinic. After trying it with him for a while, she decided to wait and work through it with the clinician. The first time I aimed Paige at the bridge, she went right over it after hesitating for a second.
When the clinic started, K and I let most everyone else go first so we could watch for a while. Both of our horses stood quietly and just dropped their heads and napped while we watched. The only thing I was really worried about with the trail portion of the clinic was that Cherokee (K’s horse) and Paige would be buddy sour when we separated them to do the course. They’d been napping/eating hay together all morning, and you guys know how those quickie trailer marriages go. 😉 Initially the plan was for me to go first, then K so that if Paige got too antsy, I could dismount and hold her from the ground. Before that could happen, a horse bucked her rider off during the log drag and came running towards us. Paige had already been a bitch and threatened to kick this horse, so I opted to dismount before the horse ran into us. Luckily K rode Cherokee forward towards the horse and she turned before she got to Paige, so it was a non-event, but this meant that K got to go first since I had already dismounted. haha. As predicted, Cherokee struggled with the bridge. The clinician offered to try him over it, and managed to get him to walk over it quietly. There were a few theatrics, but eventually K was able to mount up and take him over it quietly herself (see picture above…). K did well for the rest of the trail course, which was a victory for her since he can be weird with obstacles away from home, so she got to face her demons early in the clinic.
When it was my turn, I approached the bridge similarly to how I had earlier…but this time Paige noped out of it when she realized they’d added extra boards for more traction over the obstacle. I got her to go over it the opposite direction, then tried the first direction again. After a couple of attempts, the clinician offered to take her over it. Deep inside, I knew I could get her over it myself as she wasn’t escalating, just dodging the ramp part of it. Since everyone was watching me, I just went ahead and dismounted to see how things would go with the clinician on her instead. I was already rolling my eyes mentally thinking that she’d likely go over it the first time with the clinician. Paige resisted with her the first few times as well, which made me feel better.
She didn’t put up much of a fight, as usual with Paige, and the clinician just had to bump her with her right leg while leaving her left leg open and Paige walked right over. I had been bumping her with my right leg…but my left leg may have still been against her side. Whoops. Once I opened the door for her to go left and stay on the bridge, it was no big deal. Thinking and riding while people are watching is hard.
After the bridge was a set of poles to walk through…which caused zero problems for anyone that I watched. Thank goodness. The next obstacles was a dummy steer that we were supposed to rope. I’ve never thrown a rope (off of Paige or otherwise) so I wasn’t expecting great success with the actual roping of the plastic cow. Apparently the goal of the obstacle is more about your horse standing quietly while you attempt it. Standing quietly is among Paige’s top skills, so I wasn’t terribly concerned with this.
I didn’t manage to rope the steer, though I only tried once before moving on to our next obstacle, which was one of the only ones I’ve actually attempted on Paige prior-dragging a log. I imagine Paige has drug many a log in her day and Saturday’s was no different. The clinician was very pleased with our log dragging skills. The only note she gave me there was to make sure that the rope for the log stayed over my thigh and didn’t get between my stirrup and Paige. Good advice.
The next obstacle was a walk under thing with branches hanging down. They were really high up, so it wasn’t a big deal. It likely wouldn’t have been a big deal for Paige regardless. There’s not a lot more to say about this really. Paige is rockstar.
The last obstacle was a straight chute to back through, then pivot and sidepass to the right over. This isn’t something we struggle with at home, but Paige was VERY attentive to my spurs and exaggerated a fair amount when I was trying to position her to back up. After we got straightened up, we backed through easily enough that the clinician didn’t make us do it twice. I pivoted and she kept trying to step on the poles and rush the sidepass bc omg spurs.
The clinician seemed pretty content with our sidepass. Paige actually crosses over nicely. Our biggest issue was that she put herself in auto-pilot. After sidepassing a couple of steps to the right, I needed to step her up lest we knock the pole, but as soon as my right leg touched her she assumed she needed to sidepass left. (Suddenly she can move away from my right leg with my left leg closed…unlike with the bridge…lol.) Once I got her paying attention again, I stepped her up and successfully sidepassed over the poles to the right.
And with that, we were done with the obstacle portion. The three wild card horses were left to complete the course, so we went inside to ride in the indoor for a bit to stay out of the way. They ended up mostly doing the course in hand I think. Once again, we stayed well out of the way. The lady coordinating the clinic mentioned that since the indoor was so small, the clinician was going to divide us into two groups to work on lateral work and rail work. K and I were totally fine with that and ended up in the first group that included all of the quiet/broke horses. The clinician used another participant’s horse (that she trained when he was young) to demonstrate how to use our aids to loosen up our mount’s shoulders and get them to cross over in the front and use themselves more. Note…we should’ve asked more questions about this. After demonstrating this, she said that she wanted each of us to lope our horse around the perimeter of the indoor while the rest of the group would sit in the middle and watch. Lolz. So a) good that we aren’t all loping simultaneously since Paige had been acting like she might kick someone who crowded her, but b) holy crap I have to lope her in front of everyone watching me.
Keep in mind that the previous week when I rode Paige at K’s, I was unable to get her to lope a full lap of K’s outdoor going clockwise. Counter clockwise is our “good” way, and trust me when I say it isn’t anything to be proud of currently. Everyone else loped first, then it was my turn. ha. ha. ha. K had went before me and the clinician praised Cherokee’s lope going on the right lead, but mentioned that he looked like he struggled to hold himself up in the turns on the left lead. K mentioned he has an old stifle injury on the left side, so that may be contributing.
So I had a tough act to follow, though honestly, the entire group was a tough act to follow. The good? Paige loped off every time I asked her to without making me resort to popping her with my reins. The bad? It was very rushed and she wasn’t attempting to hold herself up and was diving on her shoulders. This wasn’t a surprise at all since she has very little muscle currently due to her time off. We went around both ways without too much improvement that I noticed and the clinician had me working on moving Paige’s shoulder to try to get her lighter on her forehand. Honestly I could’ve used a lot more time/instruction on that because I’m not terribly confident on how to work on it once she’s home.
At this point, the pizza for the participants had arrived. I’d already eaten lunch that I’d packed because a) I’m dieting and b) greasy pizza + riding nerves is bad. The second group was supposed to come in the indoor for their time with the clinician. The coordinator said that we might do more afterwards. Spoiler alert, we didn’t do more afterwards. K and I tied Paige and Cherokee to the trailer with their beloved hay bag, brought chairs up to the indoor, and watched the second group go. Of the three horses that had to do the obstacle course in hand, one of them inexplicably left mid session, the other could barely get her horse to walk quietly without attempting to rear and the third was unable to trot a lap around the indoor, much less lope. I felt moderately better about Paige and I and guilty about the thought at the same time.
After this they started to bring in the cows for the second half of the clinic that K and I didn’t sign up for. We went back to the trailer and stripped our horses so we could haul out after watching some of the cow work.
The coordinator apologized to us for the clinic being less than we may have expected. The size of the indoor vs. the number of horses had complicated her planning and I think she was doubting that we received the instruction that we would have wanted for our $75 registration. K and I both would’ve appreciated more riding and less waiting. We watched more than we rode and waited around a fair amount as well. When asked what we would like to see done differently, I mentioned that having ride times like a dressage clinic would be more ideal that way we could get more individual instruction. And to maybe have the trail obstacles set up, but to have the clinician working with individuals or even pairs in the indoor while everyone else schooled obstacles, etc. Then after everyone’s individual sessions, she could help anyone trouble shoot any obstacles that they may have struggled with on their own. As it was, my instruction over the obstacles wasn’t terribly life alteringly new information. I’m not blaming the clinician for this-my horse is pretty broke to that sort of thing and we likely would’ve been fine with them without the instruction. The fact that the only other instruction we received was to lope in an indoor and have the quality of our lope analyzed was disappointing for me. I was hoping to moreso refine my walk trot work to be more show ready with that and to develop our lope more later this year as Paige’s fitness improves.
As always, I’m tickled to have Paige to fall back on. She was quiet the entire day and, outside of threatening to kick mares, was perfectly well behaved. Oddly enough I was kind of glad that she refused the bridge the second time because that gave me something to work through with the clinician other than our loping situation. I do wish this clinician was closer to us geographically because she made sense when she explained things. I liked the advice that she gave K to work with Cherokee’s evasion and would’ve liked to work with her more with my own issues.
I was hoping for more explanations about the different classes at ranch horse shows since the clinician is a carded judge and the coordinator is talking about hosting some shows in the future and has encouraged us to let her know which classes we’d prefer to see at said show. As it stands currently, I’m only remotely knowledgeable about the trail portion, but that’s more because my horse is capable on obstacles than because I felt like the rules and expectations were explained to me. I think I would prefer she host another clinic this fall, maybe in October when its not too hot/cold before she attempts to host a show.
So that is my ranch riding recap in which I learn very little about ranch riding and receive more validation in my trust for Paige.