We all know how it goes*: you’re at a clinic and the clinician has you and your horse going better than ever before. Their timing is impeccable, their advice is spot on, and it’s exactly what you need to make your horse move like they have never moved before. Even when you make mistakes, which you do because you’re only human, it’s just fine! Because you can correct them with the helpful wisdom of your spirit guide, and you are soon trucking along with the perfect shoulder-in angle, in a fantastic renvers, doing some baby half-passes across the arena like a badass. And then you try to replicate this ride outside of your clinic lesson and instead of angels singing you’re hearing sad trombones…
*At least sometimes.
Usually when I try to apply all the magic that I learned at a clinic I end up wondering if I’m remembering all the things I’m supposed to be remembering and cursing the fact that it just doesn’t quite feel right. I’m simply not good enough to replicate everything I was taught at the clinic all at the same time, so I have to break it down piecemeal and then put it back together.
So let’s take my lesson with Megan as an example, because it’s the clinic I most recently rode in. Right now I’m simultaneously trying to teach Murray to connect to the outside rein, not lean on the inside rein, bend around my leg instead of his own shoulder, track his hind feet up under his body, and not move laterally on a circle at all times.
It’s a lot of things. And when Megan is telling them all to you in this magical stream-of-consciousness fashion and you’re just doing it all and you feel these moments of rightness, it’s great. And then I got on my horse for my first dressage ride after that clinic and Murray was falling all over himself, dragging himself towards the inside of the circle on increasingly tinier and tinier circles, couldn’t connect to the outside rein to save his life and mostly spent his time just trying to counterflex around that outside rein, and I was seriously booting him off of my inside leg (especially when it was my right leg) with these huge full-leg-slap-kicks that I’m sure Murray really appreciated.
(I personally needed to go cold turkey on the inside rein, and that ride helped me be a lot more accountable for my inside rein use and using it consciously. But it wasn’t really a fair or nice thing to do to Murray.)
Instead of trying to approach everything I learned head on, I try to break the lessons up into sensical pieces that I can accomplish really well and practice them until it starts to feel natural. Right now I’m just focusing on the connected outside rein, inside leg for bend, and no inside rein. Those three things are hard. And it takes dedicated practice* for me to insert them into my repertoire. This is also dedicated practice for Murray — he is slowly figuring out that he can’t just fall through my inside aids and end up on a hot mess of a 5 meter circle.
* Something honestly worth its entire own blog post
That’s my strategy. But I want to know — what’s your strategy? I (really really hope that I) can’t be the only one out there who can’t just replicate their clinic rides at home, but you all somehow incorporate them into your riding repertoire too. So tell me — how do you make those ever-so-valuable clinic lessons carry over into your everyday riding?
(And because I’m a nerd I also take notes. And measure things. Quantifiability, yo.)