Hawley Bennett clinic, day two

Day two with Hawley was just as educational as day one, and in some ways more educational for me, as Murray challenged me more, in some of the ways I have recently been struggling with, and a little bit in new ways.

helicopter tail
please enjoy Murray’s helicopter tail over the white gate

Hawley changed the course up from the day before, adding in a little ditch made with poles and a tarp, and a corner filled with a couple of tires.  There were also some scary oxers and a bounce, though I did not get to ride it.  We warmed up again over the trot and canter poles, this time with a bit less guidance from Hawley and a general expectation that we would be able to find a good pace and stick with it.  Hawley urged me to find the 18-stride canter (of the prior day’s circle exercise) as the canter with enough power and movement to get us successfully through a course.

tranter(Murray: how do I approach poles again?)

On day two our course started with canter poles to a little oxer, which Murray attacked the first time with the gusto of someone really not sure they are interested in eating the food put ahead of them.  He stuttered through the poles, downshifted to a trot, and then the good boy launched himself over the oxer anyway.  Once again straightness was an important theme – Hawley had us go to the end of the arena between the bounce before making a left turn to wrap back around to another fence.  Next up was the bending line from the oxer to the right, all the way around to the opposite vertical, and then back up the oxer line to do the same thing in the opposite direction.

tranter2Textbook tranter. Magnificent. Literally, trotting in the front, cantering in the back.

We also schooled the tarp ditch by first walking the horses past it and bending them away from the opposite direction so they could look but not LOOK at the ditch, and then trotted up and over the ditch with no problem.  We added a fence two strides after the ditch, and then jumped the two of them after the skinny natural oxer.  The first time around Murray made it in 8.5 strides, so Hawley asked us what the plan was for the next go around.  I pushed for 8, and while we did it, it was ugly, and 9 would have worked better (which we accomplished handily for the following rounds).


All of this was fine, as it was when we added in the skinny natural oxer to the left.  But when we came down one of the oxer lines to a panel we have jumped about 40 times before Murray was like NO WAI GEORGE.  I’ve watched the video in slow motion several times and managed to isolate just the moment when he stops moving his front feet but still has the momentum from behind carrying him – it’s quite entertaining really.  I have seen Hawley deal with horses stopping before, so gave Murray the opportunity to walk right up to the fence and stand there for a moment, which is exactly what Hawley directed me to do.  Only, Murray didn’t want to stand up at the fence and look into the face of the paint and wood of his shame, he was worked up and wanted to dance around and back up and go anywhere but to the fence.   Hawley made me just keep sitting there and talking to him until Murray settled enough that we could back up and then jump the fence from a trot.

stop2You expect me to WHAT?

After we got over the panel once more Hawley pointed out that Murray clearly knows he’s supposed to be going over the fences – he punished himself for not jumping the fence by getting all worked up and miserable.  So I just have to keep my cool and build his confidence a bit more, and not let him get so fast and on the forehand that he feels like a jump comes up on him before he can get a good enough view of it.  Understandably, after this reasonable and compassionate chat about my horse stopping I burst into tears because equestrian crybaby.  I’m not actually sure what set me off, but I think the emotional high of the day before to the crushing defeat of Murray refusing over such a ridiculous obstacle got to me.  Hawley kindly ignored my sniveling until it was my turn to ride again and I could get myself back together.


(Olympian points to the super easy section of fence she wants bad pony to jump.)

Our next set of fences involved the ever-terrifying tire corner, which I (thought) I gave a good go right up until Murray was like “FUCK NO LADY” once more.  I honestly anticipated that, though, given his spookiness earlier in the lesson and his general distaste for tires.  Hawley basically had to break the fence down to poles on the ground for Murray to even consider going, but after that he was pretty honest (until we changed direction).  All in all it wasn’t until we’d had about 5 refusals at the same fence that Hawley was like “okay, that was him!” when I was ready to give up and beat the boy 2-3 stops earlier.  Interestingly (or not interestingly because she doesn’t abuse her horse the way I abuse Murray?) she never told me to give him a smack with the whip (at least not for this, only to encourage him to be more forward in different circumstances), just to keep my leg on and ride.  However, once we’d gotten over the damned tires in both directions we were golden.  I later asked her if she thought that showing Murray the tires to start off with would have given a different outcome and she frankly responded “No, you just needed to sit up and put your leg on.”  After a bit of pouting about that (and some reflection thanks to adult camp weekend), I do agree.


As always, Hawley demanded correctness and called you on your shit without being rude, mean, or harsh.  She wasn’t going to let me get away with bad pace or not riding forward to a fence, even though I could do the rollbacks and was relatively straight, any more than she would let my group-mates get away with too-long reins or right-drifting jumps.  She was unerringly cheerful and positive, and paid absolute attention to her students.  She is liberal with praise but also free to encourage you to correct the things that need changing.  And it doesn’t hurt that in lots of my videos you can hear her saying “good job” or “great ride”.

trotIf you have the chance and the means to lesson with Hawley DO IT.  Audit if you don’t.  I learned as much as an auditor last year as I did this year as a rider, and working with her definitely changed the way I’m approaching fences.  It really added a valuable element of understanding to my riding and now I’m side-eyeing more clinics she’s holding in our area an wondering if or when my financial situation will be able to manage it.

(PS look at that insanely adorable trot I got out of Murray like four times during the clinic!)

12 thoughts on “Hawley Bennett clinic, day two”

  1. Man. I hate the unexpected emotional blow out in a lesson. It’s literally the worst. I find I’m better about it with more sleep and less stress, but it’s not always predictable. Luckily it’s just tears streaming not actually me wigging out, so the work doesn’t stop. It’s just… weird and uncomfortable.

    Loved the lesson breakdown. She sounds awesome. Also really appreciated the part where she explained Murray knew his job and was punishing himself. That’s something Pig does, and it’s so hard to just sit there and ride it out. I might be the one crying, but my horse is the one having the emotional breakdown. 🙂


    1. Yeah, and then you’re like “I’m just the emotional outlet of my horse…. No worries.” Actually, what usually happens to me is that Murray is like “oh I’m fine now, I’m great!!” And I’m like “sob sob, I don’t know why I’m crying, weep”.


  2. Sounds like she is a great fit for him! I loved watching her here a couple years ago. I’ve also succumb to the clinic equestrian cry baby thing, too many highs and lows I think.


  3. Oooo I want to audit next time she’s around! Ugh hate crying in lessons. I’ve managed to keep tears out of my lessons in the last few years (although cried a lot after lessons lol) but I have a feeling that I’ll be in tears a lot this year during lessons. And after lessons. And before lessons. And just in general.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s