Thursday, November 5, 2009

Four Days in Paradise

If you will recall, dear reader, that last time I had a clinic with Karen O’Connor, I had some difficulty pre, post, and during. My competition horse had just been diagnosed with EPM, and I was riding Dylan, who is sweet, willing, and relatively untrained. And we were in the Training group. I learned a lot, but it was incredibly frustrating, too

I was so impressed with Karen, however, that I signed up for a clinic with her at Holly Hill this past year. However, given my very interesting personal life, I called Tracy Hewlett and asked if I could possibly get someone to take my place and then focus on my family situation.

Well, Tracy did me one better: she shifted my clinic entry to this fall, and here I am in a four day clinic with Karen O’Connor, her groom Max Corcoran, and noted rider Cathy Wieschhoff. Talk about an embarrassment of riches!!

While this fall isn’t a whole lot less stressful (I’m still teaching three—four really—grad classes that I’m woefully behind in), my family life is less hectic, plus I’m working hard at bonding with Paddy….so I opted to go for it.

Unlike that last KOC, I had absolutely no difficulty getting to Holly Hill. And this time, the weather was nigh to perfect: 70’s during the day, mid 40’s a night. I left after several commitments on Wednesday, driving half way to Willow Draw, which Janet Book graciously offered as an overnight place. We arrived without incident, and we were able to get up and leave y 7:25 the next morning.

We arrived at Holly Hill just past noon. After unloading Paddy and making sure he had hay and water, I was able to catch the last part of Karen’s lesson. I’m going to write this information up in this post, then make a separate post for my lesson with Paddy….since that’s what I need to concentrate on!

At lunch, I asked Karen what they main thing she noted about the lessons in the am—what was the one thing you found all riders doing/needing to work on? She noted that many riders are “lacking in fundamentals”-that is, the basic rider responsibilities (direction, speed, balance, rhythm). We need to spend more time on these.

I asked her how someone who worked alone much of the time could improve—how they could ask for “more”. She said that this situation is hard—all pros have/have had a LOT of help, because it is so difficult to do things on your own. Most riders, she said, are loathe to leave their “comfort zones”, and as a result, they either don’t push themselves, or they reinforce bad habits. If we’re going to learn, we need to be prepared to do it wrong—even to fail—but to LEARN from that. OUCH. That sounds like the talk I gave at the RNF last year!!

Some great “Karen-isms” from the clinic:

  • Look where you’re going…then go there!
  • You got a whole lotta horse doing a whole lot of what you DON’T want him to….
  • Don’t upset the apple cart! (that means don’t lose the gait or stop)
  • Elbows have to have springs in them
  • My mother told me to be an exclamation point, not a question mark
  • Don’t lean back—you’re shutting the door!
  • And you’re PAYIN’ for this abuse!
  • Keep your hands straight, and your horse will be straight
  • Don’t soothe—you’ve soothed enough! Make him DO IT.
  • It’s all about growing, climbing, reaching
  • Horses that are over at the knee are always good jumpers
  • Don’t push beyond his balance
  • They do what WE ask them to. We’ve got to make sure we’re asking correctly!
  • If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always get (I need to FRAME this one!)
  • We RARELY fall off the horse backwards…DON’T JUMP AHEAD!
  • Don’t practice your bad habits!
  • 100% of your body is chasin’ that chicken!
  • Don’t sit on the horse like you’re sitting on the toilet!
  • Take off balanced—land balanced
  • If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space

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