Sunday, March 22, 2015

Claes Clinic

I love clinics! As much as I love showing, I may actually love clinics even more.

My friend at the barn was kind enough to come out and snap some pics of Indy and I towards the end of our ride on the second day of the Garitt-Claes Bierenbroodspot clinic. If you ever get the opportunity to ride with him, I would highly recommend it. He's tough, but fair. He works you and your horse hard, but not past the limit and personally, I felt like I got more than my money's worth out of it.

The first day of the clinic, Claes came up to introduce himself and ask about Indy. I'm not much to go into detail about my horse, they don't need a life story, so I basically told him that she's still pretty green and that our warm-up was probably not going to be very pretty, that it takes her a little while to get into working mode. He told me to just start warming up like I normally would.

Indy kind of did her thing, going a little hollow, gawking at stuff here and there. It's just her and I have to work into things somewhat gradually. If I try to force it, our rides can go south pretty fast. I decide where we want to get to, but I do better if I don't try to rush her into it. Claes was very patient while we warmed up, having me send her more forward when she would get fussy or try to come above the bit and then asking even more as she warmed up.The basic theme of both lessons was to pretty much be very aggressive about pushing her really forward and through into a steady contact (my weakness). I mean REALLY forward and through. 

Spastic left wrist.

I realize that this seems like an easy/obvious solution, but it's not that easy. When you try to push a young/green horse really forward and through, they're going to get to that point of "running" (in the gate) and our first instinct is to slow them down, damned what the results may be. To continue to ask for more forward and more through from there until they actually start using themselves, taking slower/longer strides, and going into a correct contact is extremely difficult and not something that is easy for most of us to push ourselves into doing. Combine that with trying to fix your positional flaws, that I have WAY too many of, at the same time along with several other details and it gets really tough. It also gets results.

Anyway, instead of boring you with every detail of my ride and the fact that the left side of my body is seriously not cooperating with me *Oh, hello left leg! You DO serve a purpose!*, I figured you guys might enjoy some quotes (along with hashtags because I was just in that type of mood while writing this) that may or may not be useful to you:

Spastic left leg and needing to sit back more. I'm not going to beat myself up too much.

"You know what you need to do, you just need to trust yourself."
I think he said this within the first fifteen minutes of my ride. Yeah, he had me summed up pretty quick. For example, I'm still not sure I know what I should do, I just know what I FEEL I should do. I guess that's probably the same? #trustyourselfyouidiot #confidenceiseverything

"It's okay if she makes mistakes."
This should be pretty obvious, but the type of people that ride dressage tend to be perfectionists (it's one of the few things in life that I am a perfectionist about) and our horses can easily fall victims to our anal-retentive tendencies. I need to let her make mistakes. As much as I would like Indy to be this mature epitome of professionalism, she isn't yet. That will come, but I can't force it to happen without being unfair to her and probably ending up with a bitter horse that hates her job. #dontbesuchahardass

"It HAS to make sense! If it doesn't make sense there is no point in doing it!"
I have to laugh about this one a bit. I was originally taught by a Swiss guy that you didn't really say much to unless you were asked. You were always welcome to ask questions, but his way of teaching was so clear that there was rarely a need to. So, I pretty much just shut up and rode and that's how I've been since. Anyway, Claes had just finished explaining something to me and then looked at me expectantly after I only responded with nodding. So, I expanded on that with the uber intelligent remark "That makes sense." I don't regret saying it, because he's right. Riders often do things because it was what they were told to do, but they don't understand exactly why or how it helps them get what they are looking for. They don't know the feel that they are aiming towards. It's something worth remembering. #knowledgeiseverything

Note to self: never wear this sweater with a polo under it again. It isn't flattering.

*I can't remember the exact word-for-word quote on this one, so this is the general drift of it
If she breaks gate, send her forward in the gate she chooses. Breaking gate is her way of avoiding work and connection. She needs to know that she is going to keep working no matter what gate she is in.
How many times has your horse broken into the trot when you are trying to get them to walk correctly? And how many times have you asked them to go back down to a half-assed walk only for them to do it again? It doesn't matter if it's breaking from a walk to a trot, trot to canter, or canter down to a trot, the reason for doing this is is most likely going to be the same. I know that I'm super guilty of this. And how often in these instances of breaking gate does your horse stop stepping through, get behind your leg, and lose the contact? Probably a large amount of the time because if they are doing this they are probably green and their whole purpose of doing it is to avoid coming through in that gate. It's not that they are being bad, they're just being horses. This isn't a punishment, just a part of their training that they need to go through.  #younghorseproblems

While Claes pushed us hard, he also gave us lots of walk breaks. There's a difference between avoidance and being too exhausted to do what the rider is asking. I think this area can get very touchy because you have to be fair about it. 

"Did you ride jumpers? Because most dressage people don't know when to send a horse forward like that."
I took this as a compliment. I did get to ride/groom for a large jumper barn a long time ago, but I wasn't a real "rider" (or even close) as in showing at HITS or WEF. I didn't tell him all of this, once again he doesn't need my whole life story, but just said "A long time ago". I'm pretty sure he could tell that I was never a super star in the jumping world. Mostly I rode young horses on the flat and didn't jump anything but smaller stuff or take them through the jumping chute. I didn't really care about jumping that much, dressage was my true love. I loved riding the young horses. One of the "real" riders, who was ABSOLUTLEY amazing, taught me a ton about flat work. He was insistent that I carry my hands and send the horses forward into the contact. Over the years, I've picked up bad habits of trying to get the connection (usually by my hands getting too low) without enough forward, even if I wasn't necessarily heavy handed. This got even worse after I hurt my neck. It was good for me to ride with Claes and get that timing and feel back. Now, I just have to focus on keeping it.  I've always liked taking basic flat lessons from a good jumper trainer and think that they can be very beneficial to all dressage riders. #credittoallyoushowjumpers

"It doesn't matter. If it was too much, you just have to adjust next time."
He said that after I over-corrected Indy and said "Oops. That was probably too much." Just like my horse, I'm allowed to make mistakes. No big deal, learn from it and move on. #learningprocess

"You wouldn't want to push her like this every ride. Some days you have to take less, you have to know when to stop and try again the next day."
It is really easy to have a great ride in a clinic or lesson and then push too hard to try to get the same results again. Trust me, I definitely know. It's hard to recreate that kind of quality when you're by yourself. When you take a lesson or clinic, you're paying to be pushed. You don't have to do it every single ride. What you do have to do is know is your horse's limit for that day. #thegoodridecurse

Collapsing through my left side her. My back felt fantastic the Saturday, but Sunday I woke up with my neck out again. Don't get me wrong, I have a a tendency to make these mistakes in my position anyway, but when my neck goes, it's almost impossible to fix them. I spend so much time, effort, and money into making sure my horses are feeling good, I need to do the same for myself.

After my ride on the first day, Claes had told me "good job" and was walking away when he turned around and said "Nice horse." That may not seem like a big deal, but he isn't the type to say something he doesn't mean just to be nice. He knows his horses (google him if you don't already know of him) and if he says I have I nice horse, I must. Indy was really good for the clinic and handled the larger amount of pressure very well. I was SO proud of her!

I was able to enjoy and learn a lot at this clinic due to Lisa at Diamond L Equine Therapy incredible efforts of getting Indy feeling fantastic and J using the lesson before to prepare Indy and I for what our rides with Claes would be like.

Also, thanks for the pictures Tammy! You may have single handedly saved this post :)


  1. Sounds awesome and like you guys learned loads. Great points about breaking gait. Nancy & I have struggled with this our last two spins. My corrections waiver from insisting she do as i ask and just pic hinge her forward in the "broken" gait - good to know my reaction isn't 100% wrong even if i am unpredictable in my correction and flip flop depending on mood *blush*

    1. It happens. Sounds like you have the right idea though :)

  2. I like how you summarized the key points. Always good to hear. I need to focus on these same things. I love the idea of pushing into the gait when they break. That makes so much sense.

  3. Love these tidbits, especially the bit about not expecting or pushing for the same quality of work all the time. I'm so guilty of that (and being a perfectionist. Mistakes? Not allowed!). I also like the gait breaking tip. That's a really interesting way of seeing breaks. I know when working for more collection at the canter, trot breaks are going to be a way of life until you and the horse can read each other better. I learned to just take the trot breaks as a sign I was holding too much in the half halt and not releasing for forward in time.

  4. Thank you for sharing, love all of those points. He really sounds like a great clinician, and you guys look fabulous!

  5. Sounds like an amazing clinic!! My head would have been spinning from trying to remember things he said in the first 10 minutes while trying to focus on riding haha

  6. Um I actually love that sweater with the polo. I think it's classy and flattering...

    Sounds like a great clinic. :-) Glad you got pictures!

  7. Loved this style of clinic wrap up! My two favorite parts were the 'send them forward if they break gait' since that happens a lot to us, and I do exactly what you said... go back down to a so-so gait. Also, I like that you give some credit to the show jumpers ;)

  8. great clinic and recap! Indy looks lovely in all those pictures - nice work! those pointers are all really interesting too. we have problems with breaking gait too... i also like the bits about making mistakes. so far i'm *usually* patient with my horse's mistakes... but less so for myself haha

  9. This post was fantastic! I learned so much! I'm still struggling with the whole forward thing. I believe in my last lesson Ries broke trot to canter and my trainer made me "gallop" (He totally forgot what that was). Your position is still lovely though!

  10. Thank you for sharing! Looks like it was a super successful clinic

  11. She looks really lovely! All your hard work looks like it is paying off!

  12. Wow, so much great feedback. I really feel like this guy looked at all the angles and was respectful of your intentions too. Sounds like a fabulous experience, and you two, as always look great to me!

  13. Pony is looking pretty darn fancy. I agree. I love clinics more than anything!

  14. I love clinics too. Kind of a mix between a lesson and a horse show. You guys looked great out there and it sounds like a lot of us have the same issues.


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