My barn hosts a Mark Leone clinic every November, but I have never participated in the past although I’ve watched. I did have a great experience with an Anne Kursinski clinic when I was in my early teens, but then a horrible experience with a Franz Steiner clinic kind of left a sour taste in my mouth.
The Franz Steiner clinic in 2007 was a weird situation, and I’m a bit hazy on the details (I was on pain meds). It was after the whole sinkhole situation, so I was recovering from my first shoulder surgery and Stampede was in training since I was unable to ride. My trainer at the time offered to have Franz ride Stampede during the clinic. It was a huge disaster. Stampede is not the type of horse you can just push and pull around. He is going to resist and fight back. He also is not a big fan of men from some experiences before I got him. Honestly I should have stopped it midway through, but I was naive and had never experienced a bad professional before. After the ride I was told basically that my horse was mentally unstable and should be put to sleep or sold for meat. Even though I thought the guy was crazy it was still embarrassing and caused me to have less interest in getting involved in clinics again.
As an aside, I did ride in the same clinic the next year, just to prove my horse was none of the things Franz Steiner had said. Yes he was still green to jumping and yes he would get quick, but he was never unsafe with me. Sometimes even people with big names are not worth your time, and looking back it was a waste to ride with him.
On to my experience yesterday, which I sadly have no pictures from. Firstly, Mark is a very happy and nice guy. I did leave with an extra feeling of confidence about Stampede, which is nice. Even with his health issues and quirks, I do think he is a nice horse for me. Will he ever get to the level I wanted to go with him, probably not, but I can still enjoy him.
Our flat work yesterday included tons of transitions between all gaits. He mentioned my hands a few times, which I tend to carry a bit low because Stampede likes it that way. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find a happy medium on where to keep my hands and have him maintain his happy trot. He mentioned that he thought Stampede looked happiest when I was two pointing at the trot, which probably makes sense with his back issues.
The first jumping exercise we did was certainly the hardest. It was a figure eight, but with the jumps out right before the turn. So you were doing the figure eight across the short side of the indoor, plus you had to trot the jump then turn immediately before the wall. Stampede was really good and other than feeling like he had a hard time changing leads in the turn with how tight it was, he had it together.
After that we did three different courses. Each started with a trot jump with the trot pole in front, then always one bending line and some varying rollbacks. I felt like all of my courses went really well. His main comment was that I like to throw my hands for my release at the oxers too fast when really my horse leaves the ground pretty slowly. I still managed to make the mistake again once on my second course, but fixed it by the third.
It was a fun experience and I hope to do it again next year.