Misty and I attended a Debbie Bibb Horsemanship clinic and I had a blast focusing on my sweet mare. It was a real bonding weekend for us. The clinic was held at the CSU Equine Center in Fort Collins where we had a very nice, comfortable indoor arena in which to work and ride.
We started out with some ground control exercises, then rode a pattern to see where we are with our horses and what we need to work on. We walked along the left side of the arena, turned right, through two orange cones, over ground poles ,then turned left around another cone and trotted to the far end of the arena where we did two big circles that formed a figure eight when put together, then we continued back down the long side of the arena, trotting serpentines through about 8 ground markers, then to the right where we came to a stop between two parallel ground poles, then we moved forward at a walk, turned right, came to a stop and backed up.
Other exercises during the weekend:
- Controlling our horses feet and mind from the ground
- Leading exercises to get in synchronization with our horse and control their stride as we lead them
- Giving to the bit on the ground
- Giving to the bit from the saddle
- Riding exercises to help us with our seat and balance
- Sitting trot, to learn to move with our horse and not against the horse
- Emergency Stops
- Moving our horse's shoulders and hips from the ground and from the saddle.
- Walk, trot, and canter transitions
- Lengthening and shortening our horse's stride
We had a competition during the lengthening/shortening exercise. Four ground poles were placed to form a square (a box). We practiced riding straight through the box to gauge how many strides our horse walks normally through the box. Misty took 4 strides. Then as the competition began, we had to state how many strides our horse would take to walk through the box on that 1st round, then each successive round we had to add an extra stride. Sometimes strategy works if you lengthen your horses stride through the first round, then let them walk naturally (the easiest to predict and control) through the 2nd round. It can give you the advantage of having an extra round before shortening the stride gets really challenging. But sometimes it backfires. Most of us started with our horses normal stride. So first time through I said Misty would take 4 steps, and she did. 2nd time through I said she would take 5 steps; I shortened her stride and she took 5 steps inside the box. Next time she took 6 steps. If a horse takes fewer or more steps than you state, then you are out of the competition. Misty and I won the competition with 8 strides through the box. For fun we tried to do 9 strides, but didn't quite make it. She stepped outside the box on the 9th step.
We did another fun challenge near the end of day 2. Parallel poles were set up for us to ride through, forming a "shoot" (pictured above). We each took a turn riding up to the shoot, through the shoot, and beyond the the shoot. For example, a simple instruction may be: "Ride a posting trot to the middle of the shoot, then ride a sitting trot out." As we did this, we had to look ahead at Mark (Debbie's husband) and call out how many fingers he was holding up as we rode through this exercise. Debbie gave each rider different instructions on each turn. These were instructions meant to challenge us individually. My biggest challenge on my last turn was "trot up to the shoot (sitting or posting) and then in the middle of the shoot transition to a canter. Misty and I are both new to cantering under saddle together and I've had a tough time getting her into a canter when I've tried it on my own in a large arena. She just keeps trotting faster, faster, faster. (And the previous day, when we worked on walk, trot, canter transitions in a large circle, I worked only on our walk-to-trot and trot-to-walk transitions. We aren't ready to canter in a circle and have only gotten into a canter a few times.) So I was surprised when Debbie challenged me to canter. I wasn't sure if I could get Misty to canter in the shoot, but we had been doing so well together all weekend, I decided to give it a try. We trotted into the shoot, I asked her for the canter, and what did she do? She immediately picked up a lovely canter!!! I was really quite surprised. We cantered forward for a few strides, then back to the walk and I gave Misty lots of At-A-Girl pats on the neck and told her what a good mare she is.
Near the end of the clinic, we repeated the riding pattern we started with, to see how we had improved in just 2 days.
I had a great time at the clinic. Misty was super focused on me through all the exercises and I couldn't have been more pleased with her. I love my mare!
It was a busy weekend and I didn't have time for pictures, except for a few taken during our breaks.
During breaks we tied our horses to sturdy hitching posts outside the arena where they could relax and visit with their neighbor.
Hitching posts double as scratching posts.
That's the spot!