This was my first clinic with a big name event rider and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Even with my more expensive dressage trainer, I have never put down as much money as I did to ride with Stephen Bradley. I know, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t as much as say Jimmy Wofford clinics but with a wedding to pay for and being in the middle of closing on a house it sure feels like a lot of money! I was a little worried that I would get there and it would be a bust.
Thankfully I was so so wrong.
The thing you need to remember about day 1 was that it was hot and humid. Ridiculously so. Gus got three baths that day. One when I picked him up at the barn, the second about an hour before our ride time, and the third when we finished the clinic. We were both dripping sweat. Thank God for my wonderful fiancé who was at my side with a water bottle every single time we took a break. None of the other riders in my group had that and I don’t know how they handled it. Though they may be more used to the humidity. I don’t think I will ever fully acclimate.
But anyway, on to the fun part. I won’t go into too much detail here because there is really only so much you can say regarding grid work. We worked on two different grids in an effort to work on relaxation and rhythm. What I liked about Stephen’s teaching style was that he was able to use the same grid to work on three different problems and he was great about explaining what he was trying to accomplish for each horse.
The first was a cross rail, one stride, oxer, one stride, oxer combo. This was great for Gus because he really wanted to rush through everything. Stephen’s main goal for me was that if Gus wanted to get through the first one stride in 2.5 seconds, I need to slow him down and make him do in five seconds. Stephen also quickly corrected me in getting my shoulders up. I am so used to Gus diving for the jump that I am trying to stay with him by getting into my two-point too quickly.
I think I really impressed Stephen here because when he told me to do something, he did not have to tell me twice. He even complemented me on it and said he is not used to “telling someone to do something and actually have them be able to do it” in regards to getting Gus to slow his rhythm.
That made me feel good.
I felt less good when we got to the second grid, a trot vertical, come back to trot, to an oxer. We had your normal green horse issues with trying to get Gus to come back for the oxer and a lot of rider issues with me going straight through the exercise. I was starting to loose steam at this point, and so was Gus.
Where we hit a problem was when Stephen jacked up the vertical and told us now that we had to canter the whole exercise. Until this point, nothing had looked big, nothing had looked scary. That airy vertical looked about four feet tall (it wasn’t even three feet apparently) and, with trying to ride the exercise perfectly, I found myself in a lot of trouble. We were able to do get through, thankfully, but it was not my best moment.
What I did realize though, was just how much better of a rider than I give myself credit for. I’m not going to be winning any equitation classes or anything but I’m a dang scrappy little rider. Really pounds home the idea that if I could just get in a lesson routine I might accomplish a whole lot more.