Sorry to report, I lost my verve for a while – that’s “verve”, not nerve. But Spring, with more daylight, returned, and with it some of my enthusiasm.
I have dropped off Facebook, and some people have commented that they miss my updates. I find blogging a little odd, since it feels very self involved sometimes, but it can provide a bit of history. As I forget more and more every day, that might not be so bad…
We have had outrageous rains this Spring -in five days more than 5 inches as a prelude to continued downpours. Here, we are unaffected by floods, but we have news of friends who have not been so lucky.
Anyway, this blog entry is really about inspiration – a two day clinic riding with Frank Madden, one of the top trainers from the East Coast.
Artie is back in action, after spending much of last year coughing. In hindsight, I think he may have had a virus that left him with a persistent cough. We pulled his shoes in December, thinking he might have to be retired, and he almost immediately stopped coughing. So, when an opportunity to ride in a clinic with Frank Madden arose, Jane and I jumped at it (so to speak) and spent our riding time from March 1st preparing for the clinic at the end of April.
On Wednesday, rain, so we trailered over to St. Louis Equestrian and settled Artie and Derry into nice, big stalls there, ready to ride with Frank on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday morning, Frank appeared, looking much the same as he had when we last rode with him, sixteen years ago! Maybe a bit more gray hair on all of us… but we all feel the same. We are all still passionate about jumping horses.
The basics are the same, but a great teacher finds refreshing ways to remind us and inspire us to keep improving those basic skills. Frank is one of the exceptional teachers, with a style that is familiar and highly entertaining.
Some comments from Frank, Day 1:
The most important character in a horse is a brave character. A certain amount of that, trainers can influence, but it is really inherent.
Fitness relates to rideability (forward, straight and balanced) – in both horse AND rider. Fitness makes the horse able to hold balance and rhythm.
Horses evolve into riding well, with correct training over time. (This one is especially inspirational for me, as I tend to get in a hurry.)
“The older I get, the more intrigued I am with the sport.”
No picture – We all know I’m old! (#oldladieshorseshowing is Jane’s and my tagline!)
As you canter, do “maintenance” to improve the gait. After jumping, put a little “maintenance” into the canter – a little “housekeeping”.
It takes a special quality as a rider (and a horse) to step on stage and not “dummy up”.
This is a sport of inches – especially in the equitation and jumpers!
The “texture” of the round wins in equivalent trips – attention to detail, ease, and competence create a better “texture” (I figure I have a burlap texture vs. the cashmere of, say, Hunter Holloway).
On the second day with Frank Madden, the challenges were tougher. A gifted teacher will not demoralize a rider or a horse, but they will enable us to do more than we thought we could – and with more competence.
Here are a few more nuggets from Frank :
Don’t be repetitive or redundant – in life or on horseback. “A groove you can get out of, a rut, you are stuck in.”
“Change is better than a rest” – change up the exercises – don’t mix it up, don’t confuse it, but change it.
Regarding gaits – rhythm is the continuity of the beat, tempo is the speed of the beat.
Competence and knowledge create relaxation.
“Fear will cause hesitation, and hesitation will make your fear come true.”
Frank is classical in his approach. After all, his background includes George Morris, and Bert de Nemethy, monumental legends in our sport. But Frank is also familiar, and encouraging and presents challenges that teach and improve every level of rider. It was fascinating to see the improvement in horses and riders from Day 1 to Day 2, and amazing to feel the difference in Artie, who felt more rideable, and jumped as well as he ever has.
We were so lucky to have this opportunity, and even these #oldladieshorseshowing improved and remain inspired!