I had a great time at the Elisa Wallace Clinic but am not going to focus much on the first day for a few reasons: A) it was flatwork day and, while difficult, I felt there were too many people in the session and I did not get as much individual attention as I would have liked and B) the boy forgot his camera battery so no pretty photos. Elisa’s teaching style was good though and something I really meshed with so even though I was a bit disappointed with day 1, I left really looking forward to day 2 which was the jumping phase.
Things did not start great for me. Gus was raring to go and being pretty uppity, though surprisingly not spooking at new fences like he does at Chatt and Poplar. I trotted him all over the field and let him look at everything in hopes we wouldn’t have any stupid stops. He didn’t even care. And then since he was being a little fresh, I let him canter around a bunch hoping to get some of the energy out. But that didn’t really help at all.
The first fence we worked on was just a little step box and Gus landed on the far side and bolted. Lovely. Yanking on him just led to bracing on his part so I basically had to pull him off balance and into a little tiny circle to bring him back down. Elisa was not impressed. She told me I had to make him stop afterwards.
So we kept working on that fence and started adding some combinations. I could not get Gus to stop without letting him go a ways and then turning him. Worse, he was not letting me half halt before the fences either so things were getting kind of ugly. So Elisa quickly changed the way I was riding and asking for him to come back. She had me majorly shorten my reins, brace one hand on his neck and pull directly back with the other. It was much better, immediately.
The problem was though that I have a terrible habit of letting the reins slip through my hands after fences, especially when we get to a bad spot. And, due to my short t-rex arms, I felt like I was choking up too far. Turns out my reins are never really as short as they feel to me, and that was what Elisa wanted because as long as I had my reins short and grabbed rein over the fences, my hands flowed with him and did not catch him in the mouth.
By the end of the day, I had a horse who was rating much better and was no longer running away from me. Cheers to the small things!
On a personal note, this was the first time being in a brand new field of fences, that I was not nervous. None of them were super high of course, but they all felt old hat. It’s a wonderful feeling.
To end the session, Elisa had us do the full course of fences. I actually ended up going twice to really cement the whole “not taking off after fences” thing but I was happy with our effort both times. Gus was brave and bold to the new fences, and willing to come back. I remembered to count (and breath) as I came to the fences and I think it made all the difference.
I would definitely be willing to ride with Elisa again, especially over fences. She has a really down to earth attitude. She’s helpful when mistakes are made but she expects you to learn from them and not make them again. Since she is local, maybe I’ll get a chance to do so again soon!