Sunday, October 24, 2010

Me and My Mare - Horsemanship Clinic Getaway

Work continues to be very stressful and demand long hours of me.  There has been little time for blogging or riding and it is going to remain this way through February. Every now and then, I have to TAKE some time to get away from work, and purposefully schedule some "Me and My Mare Time".  That's what I did a couple weeks ago. 

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.

 Next to Misty is a 2 year old Holsteiner gelding, not yet started under saddle since he is young and still growing.  But his owner did just about everything from the ground that the rest of us did in the saddle, including the riding pattern by leading the gelding at a walk and a trot over poles, through and around cones,  and  in circles and serpentines.  It was a lot of fun to watch the youngster progress from being scared to walk into the building at the start of day 1, to trotting alongside his owner confidently through the patterns by the end of day 2. 

 Hitching posts double as scratching posts.

 That's the spot!


  1. Misty looks great!!! The clinic sounds fun and I bet you came away with LOTS of things to work on with Misty.

  2. That looks and sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for the report!

  3. Clinic sounds great. What a gorgeous arena.

  4. I love reading about clinics because I can try and emulate a clinic style lesson at home. I'd love to attend a clinic but they hardly ever happen near me. Plus, they are usually extremely expensive. Still, seeing how my mare behaves with others in the class and how we both compare to others would be great. Thanks for sharing your clinic. I learned a lot and was very inspired.

  5. Sheesh, what a useful post. Thank you for writing it. I love your mare. Jeez, what a face.

  6. you just gave us an excellent recap of a clinic~ THANK YOU!

    And yippee Misty; you picked up the canter when mylady asked for it; good job!

  7. Sounds like you both had an enjoyable weekend, with a lot of good work. And congratulations on the canter!

  8. Jeni, oh yes, I have lots to work on. I need to come up with a winter riding plan. Because now it is starting to get difficult to ride around my work schedule.

    Hi Kate & Leah, yep, lotsa fun. I really enjoy them and meeting other horse owners and watching them as they learn too.

    baystatebrumby, thanks. Yeah, clinics can be hard on the budget, especially when you have to travel and pay for motel and boarding. I'm going to start saving up for next summer. I really enjoy them and it is fun to meet other riders and see what their challenges are too.

    Thanks Muddy K! I got lucky when I adopted Misty. She's a good one.

    feralwoman, thanks. Misty was a very good girl and very attentive the whole weekend.

    HorseOfCourse, thank you. I really enjoyed the clinic and look forward to more next year. Thanks for the congrats on the canter. I used to canter all the time 30 years ago. Now it is my biggest challenge. But we're getting there.

  9. Once Upon - Congratulations! It sounds like you and Misty had a fun and constructive weekend. Your Misty is the sweetest mare ever. I love how relaxed she is in the hitching post photos and then, uses it as a scratching post! Too cute! Sorry I am late to this post...I read it but blogger kept eating my comments. I came back today and hopefully success with comments!

  10. Thanks juliette. It's a good thing Misty is a pretty mellow and amiable mare. There were a few times when a few of the geldings got way into her space and right behind her butt at the hitching post, but she never got cranky with them. She is a gal who likes the boys a lot.

  11. What a great clinic! I loved reading about the exercises you did - they sound fun and interesting and challenging, and Misty and you did so well at them! I'm glad you got to go to it. And Misty is a very special horse!

  12. What a great clinic and good exercises you and Misty did together. It sounds like a lot of fun and I'm glad you got to get away and spend time with Misty. She's so sweet. Hope you get to go again. Congratulations on the canter too.

  13. Misty is gorgeous!

    Clinics are a great way to really focus on working together with your horse. Sounds like a very successful day for both of you :)