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Bel Joeor Sale and Giveaway!

Amanda from Bel Joeor is hosting a big sale on her Etsy site and a giveaway on her blog!  She makes beautiful saddle covers and bags.  I highly recommend checking out her shop and entering her contest.  

Dressage Clinic with Ashley Madison - November 24, 2018

Just over a month ago, Beth encouraged me to sign up to ride in a clinic at her farm with Ashley Madison, of Yellow Wood Dressage in Maryland.  Ashley was an accomplished young rider here in Maine and then spent ten years working for Scott and Susanne Hassler before branching out on her own.  She has brought along horses to GP and is a USDF Gold Medalist. 

I love that Beth wants to me clinic with other instructors if I have the chance, as it shows that she is confident enough in herself to know that she's forever my dressage mom at this point (haha) but that we can both also glean insight from others.  Beth was at my lesson and it was also beneficial to her as my primary instructor to hear what Ashely had to say.  As someone who loves to learn in all aspects of life, it is refreshing to be partnered with another person who also wants her students to always be learning, whether that is from her or someone else.  

However, I was hesitant for a few reasons, the biggest being the time of year (sn*w and ice make it hard to navigate my driveway with my rig) and I did not want to eat the $$$ if I had to cancel.  Luckily, Beth offered me a lesson horse to ride in case I could not get Ellie over there, so I figured what the hell and signed the check!

It was a day two clinic and I was supposed to ride on Sunday.  However, the forecast was calling for freezing rain overnight into the morning hours.  It was supposed to warm up during the latter part of the day, but with a lesson at 8:45 meaning I would have to leave no later than 7, there was no way it would be safe to drive a trailer, never mind just the truck.  

Again, Beth was so accommodating and had me ride at the end of the day Saturday at 3:45.  This made for a long afternoon, as I arrived around 1pm to find out they were running an hour behind.  WHOOPS.  Oh well.  This put my lesson at 4:30, which was fine but now it meant I would be driving home in the dark and falling temps (it was 27 degrees when I left at 6pm that night).  Beth had me put Ellie into a stall and I was able to watch three lessons, which was actually really great.  Two horses were at Ellie's level and one was Beth's daughter on a horse she trained from birth and is planning to show Third Level this coming year.  I never have time to audit lessons so this was really informative and gave me an idea Ashley's teaching style.

Once it was time to get on to warm up, it was getting dark and the temperature had dropped from a sunny high of 39.  Ellie had never been in the indoor in the dark, but she was awesome.  I know I brag about her brain all the time, but seriously she just went into the indoor with eight people in the viewing area (normally it is just Beth at our lessons) and did her job.  When the previous horse left the indoor, she just kept doing her job and never worried about being alone.  This is huge to me because having a solid horse under me is a priority.  

Our lesson was about straightness, stretching her frame out and down towards the bit, and managing her tempo with my seat and no hand.  After warming up on my own in the walk/trot/canter with a short walk break, Ashley had me show her Ellie's trot and canter after introducing Ellie and talking about my goals.

The first words out of her mouth were, "WOW, she's fancy!" which made me laugh.  I have never owned a horse that anyone would call fancy haha.  

I have a bunch of video clips because I handed my phone to Beth and told her to film whatever she thought I should watch again hahaha, so I have a lot of verbatim quotes from Ashley.  I spent much of today's snow day (it's Tuesday and we got almost 10" of snow uggggg) watching and rewatching the videos.
I have videos but no pics, so here is Ellie wearing her Santa hat haha
Ashley had me thinking about counter flexing Ellie, especially on the left rein.  She wanted me to ride with Ellie's head in the middle of her chest instead of her head over her left shoulder.  As Ashley put it, "She needs to learn to travel in that corridor that is created with your outside leg and rein and your inside leg and rein."  We are straighter to the right but for some reason I like to overbend her to the left.  

One of my favorite quotes from Ashley was early on in the lesson: "She has a really good hind end and she creates some power and she is pushing forward.  When her neck is up, she can balance ok.  But she needs to use her abs and her pectoral muscles to not fall on her face when her neck is down.  This is why you are going to slow your seat down a little bit, let her go a little less forward.  Don't get me wrong, she's cute up there, it is a nice pretty little frame and you can very easily go show with that, but you don't really have good access to her back and her body."

This is so true.  I can probably get away with this through First Level, but I need to get her to stretch out and down in the first third of her neck (starting from her withers up) in order to get her to use herself properly.

Ellie still needs to turn more from my outside aids, especially going left.  "You want her left hind to step directly up into the hoofprint of her left front."  This has been a constant struggle this summer and one that I need to overcome.  Ashley said to me: "You should be able to flex her and move the shoulder directionally without pulling back.  It is sideways, closing the right side of your body into the right side of her body.  It is not pulling back on the right side of her."

She talked about Ellie's tempo and energy like a dial.  In her little horsey world, Ellie has the dial turned all the way up.  "Marching, marching, marching, marching.  Is this the tempo you really want for this walk?" 

And this isn't a bad thing, she is not being naughty, she is just a high energy horse. "It is not that she is being bad, that is just who she is!  She's ready to go to work and that is a fantastic quality, it's a wonderful quality!" My job, as Ashley put it, is to gently help her turn that dial down.  "You need to make sure she stays with YOU."  And that, of course, is going to come more from my seat.  I do not yet utilize my seat enough.

She made a comment about how riders allow their horse to do something (let's say rush a bit in the walk) 50% of the time in the ride, which is essentially telling the horse it is allowed, and then actually working on slowing the tempo 50% of the ride.  By the end of that ride, you have not gotten any further along in training because half the time you allowed it and half the time you corrected it, so it cancelled out.  She feels this is why so many people get stuck at a level or don't feel they are making progress.  That made a lot of sense to me.

Ashley did say I would appreciate Ellie's wonderful energy when we are doing Grand Prix, as it takes a LOT of energy to do the GP tests.  Hahahaha, ohhhhhh I love hearing another person who has brought along horses from unbroke to GP talk about Ellie like that.  When I first told Ashley my goal was maybe Second Level someday, Beth piped in with the comment ohhhh no, I have plans for these two!  I have no illusions of grandeur, but it is nice to feel like I am training a horse that has true potential.

So in order to manage Ellie's tempo and not rely so much on my hand aid in the half halts, she was insistent: "NO HAND.  I don't care if it takes ten circles to get her to walk, don't use your hand."  We practiced trot to walk transitions without any hand and Ellie is surprisingly much more tuned into my seat than perhaps any of us (especially me) figured she would be.  It did not take ten circles to walk, more like five strides.  I KNOW I can fix that.  I KNOW I can spend this down time this winter just teaching her to listen to my seat and immediately react.

Overall, it was a super productive lesson.  At first I felt a bit overwhelmed, especially when I dismounted and was untacking her.  It was a little bit of an informational overload!  However, as I have had time to sit and write and rewatch the videos, I feel much less overwhelmed and much more inspired and ready to tackle our issues.  

I considered putting all the clips together, but that is a lot of work and I don't have much Vimeo space left, so here is the one I put on Instagram haha.  Plus, some of the videos are not great quality, since it was dark outside and I wasn't always close to the camera.


Nadia Novik said…
Wow, what a great lesson! I love all the tidbits you passed along and totally love her teaching style! And yeah, Ellie looks awesome! What a great little mare!
Martidoll said…
yay that is exciting she said she was fancy! ( I mean WE KNOW she is fancy but it is nice when pros say it too) HA also glad you got to watch other lessons!! so worth it. Great job! UGH did you say 10 inches more? JEEZ...poor you. Glad you got out one more time! :) Now to hibernate!!
I adore Beth, but it was nice to have a new perspective on the same issues for sure! I can't wait to ride with her again in the spring. And thank you! She's coming along well!
Right?!?! I was like EFF YEAH my Morgan is FANCYYYY hahahaha. Definitely in hibernation mode now. The sn*w is killing me and it is NOT EVEN DECEMBER. Help! LOL
emma said…
what a great lesson!! i love when you can walk away with so many great pieces of homework!
Sara said…
How great for your trainer to encourage you to clinic with others. Ellie is such a great mare. The sky is the limit for you two
L.Williams said…
I love going to clinics, this sounds like it was a really good one!
Karen said…
How fun!! I have heard great things about Ashley. I think she trains at the same farm as my friend Ben Albright. And I believe I watched Ashley ride with Charlotte D. earlier this year!
TeresaA said…
Morgan’s are so naturally forward. Slowing down will make her so much stronger and fluid.
Same here! It is nice to have an outline of what to work on. It is so simple but is going to take time, which is perfect since it is the right season to work on nit-picky stuff!
It is one of the many reasons I ride with Beth and will probably never leave her haha. She is super supportive! And thank you, she really is a nice mare if I can just get my own act together and ride her well haha!
I forget how nice it is to have fresh eyes on you in a clinic situation. Not all instructors are good clinicians, I have found, but Ashley was great.
Yes! She was fortunate to ride with Carl Hester at the 2017 NEDA Symposium and Charlotte Dujardin this year!
Yes! She is naturally forward under saddle and in her mind. I loved the dial explanation and it totally made sense. Now to really get her to understand working off my seat by the time we are ready for spring show season!
Liz Stout said…
It sounds like you had a really amazing lesson. And how exciting that you received so many positive compliments about Ellie's potential. The sky is the limit for you two. =)