Mark Leone Clinic 2018

As I mentioned before I was really looking forward to this clinic. Last year I didn’t feel like Maestro was ready to do some of the more intricate courses involved and actually I hesitated a bit to even do it this year. Of course my barn friends told me I was crazy and reminded me that I was doing it to learn anyways.

So Saturday of the clinic Mark right away zeroed in on getting my heels down. This is one of my big struggles with Maestro. I find I want to jab him with my heel and essentially lift my heel to try to get him to be more responsive (I miss my responsive chestnut boys sometimes!). Obviously this is not the right answer and something I’ve been trying to improve unsuccessfully. We continued through the ride and generally his chorus to me over the one gymnastic exercise was “heels, heels, heels”. Where it gets interesting is on Sunday. At the beginning of the session he was talking to me again about my heels and I mentioned that I felt like I couldn’t get my lower leg against my horse when I was trying to get my heels down and hence couldn’t keep him moving. Mark had me stop and moved my leg around – turns out my issue was that I hold my knee in and thus my lower leg cannot be against my horse. Such a light bulb moment for me and so simple.

Otherwise Saturday I had a great time jumping around. Maestro struggled a bit with lead changes with some of the tighter turns but he jumped well and was nice and responsive over fences. We had no issues getting strides (an issue that had come back right after I proclaimed that it had been going well in a previous postΒ and reappeared on Sunday too – argh). Below is a video from Saturday of an exercise I really liked. We did a gymnastic that was a one to one, cantered around and jumped a single (where video starts) then went down the outside line doing the strides in 6, around to the same line but this time in 7, then around to a plank oxer. After that we cantered a line that was a pole, 4 strides to a one stride of X’s, then 3 strides to another pole, but that’s not in the video (I biffed it a bit that time but I was over my 1 minute for IG anyways, lol).

I will admit I have taken a bit to write this up because I was disappointed in myself Sunday. Maestro let it be known early on that he was tired and wasn’t the horse I rode the day before. This is not new either and something I struggled with at shows as well. I had planned ahead and put on my little spurs but they proved insufficient so I had a friend grab my larger soft touch ones. After I got them on and got after Maestro a little he got quite angry, did a lot of hopping, and proceeded to charge through the exercise we were doing, which was just cantering in and trotting out between two poles. So he got to do it a few extra times with some added hopping, lead changes, and halts. After he got to chill a minute while others went he then did some nice cooperative but forward work cantering the poles in 5 strides.

I think maybe the hardest part of the clinic format was that every time my horse sat he then was angry about moving again. Good training for him really but annoying to deal with and ultimately a detriment to our courses. We struggled with getting the strides Mark requested in various places because Maestro was scrunching up against my leg instead of moving forward. It was very clear that once my horse got moving it wasn’t so much of an issue but a line early on was tough.

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On the positive side my horse really only showed one green moment when I took a more direct line from a fence that was a bending 5 strides to a 1 stride. I felt him waffling left and right like he had last winter while learning bending lines but I kept my legs on to form a box for him. I did decide to just do the in of the one stride on an angle at that moment (versus attempting to straighten by going left right before and over the fence) and ride off instead of going through the whole thing as I’m pretty sure he would have had to stick two strides in there to make it work in that situation. We came back around and actually stuck to doing the bending in 6 strides and got nicely through the one stride.

Despite accomplishing several difficult courses (often with pieces to redo) I was really upset after my ride on Sunday. I missed riding Stampede in that moment. I know I would have made fewer mistakes and he would go forward when asked. I was disappointed that I couldn’t seem to ride my own horse better.

Looking back now I’ve been trying to focus onΒ the positives of what I learned and what I can continue to work on over the winter to improve. Maestro is back in “you will go forward when asked or else” training (I stopped after he got sore following some time I spent working on it a couple of weeks before the clinic and have adapted my methods a bit now). So far it seems to be going okay besides some theatrics here and there (he often kicks out or bucks when hit with a crop, especially behind my leg). I’ve been focusing a lot on retraining my leg to lay differently – pointing my knees out a bit to keep them loose and trying to let my heels drop. With that I’m trying not to sacrifice my leg position because my horse is lazy – sorry man if you don’t maintain your own pace you are getting a reminder!

Overall Mark is fun to ride with, insanely patient, and very positive. Clearly the issue is my expectations of myself and my own riding. I love complicated courses and historically I am quite good at them. At one point Mark called me a softie and it’s something I’ve continued to think about because generally in my life I would not be described that way, lol. I do tend to try to massage Maestro into cooperation to avoid him kicking out but I do always make him go forward. I think maybe my issue is that I don’t want to make people wait until I get my horse where I want him to be to start a course so I sacrifice a bit too much.

Maestro is on vacation from jumping for a few weeks since we don’t show again until February and I believe breaks are good for everyone. Plus we have plenty to work on otherwise. Onward and upward!

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28 Comments

  1. martidoll123

    wow that is amazing you got to do that clinic! I do the same thing with Remus, I lift my heel up to him instead of using my leg properly. Glad it is not just me πŸ™‚ Also Maestro looks great.

    And I find that the clinic format is hard for Remus too (standing around, now go, then stand around again!). Remus is not a fan! HA. It is funny Maestro is a bit lazy. I would much rather have that than the opposite!

    Sounds like it was a great clinic and you are being a bit hard on yourself on it all. You haven’t had him that long and he is young (right)? It will come!! Great job!! And breaks are good for them! PS I love his canter it is so relaxing to watch even when he is being a bit lazy!! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Lifting the heel is such a hard habit to break too! My trainer said she thinks he’s more resistant when I do it too, go figure!

      Maestro’s laziness is so selective, it’s pretty amusing. I love his chill attitude though, not worrying about when my horse is going to spook at something is so nice. Plus he clearly will jump stuff even when I get him to horrible distances, lol.

      I got him last September and he’s 7 now. I would have called him a bit green for his age when I got him but man you watch what some people do with younger horses and it makes me feel behind. Stampede taught me how great jumping breaks can be for a horse since he really just couldn’t handle it with his back. Plus I love focusing on flatwork. I wish I could get some dressage lessons again. Instead you will find me reading Dressage 101. πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the compliments. I struggled writing this post and definitely had a lot of negative feelings with my riding in it.

      Reply
      1. martidoll123

        i think you did great and I consider 7 still a bit young. Just think how much better and longer he should be around by not being pushed at a younger age!! πŸ™‚ I think he is adorable. Even if he is not a chestnut HA!

        Reply
        1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

          Yes I hope he is my riding horse for a long time just like Mr P. Maybe he’s a chestnut on the inside? πŸ™‚

          Reply
          1. martidoll123

            I totally think he has chesnut on the inside πŸ™‚

  2. Erika

    I so have the heel lifting issue! I know I do it because Gav is a bit unresponsive. Instead of lifting and jabbing with my heel I need to make him more responsive to calf pressure, but gahhhh! You guys look great!

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Heel lifting is the most annoying and not an issue I had when I rode sensitive horses. I told my husband I feel like I need an invention that makes a noise if I raise my heel to help retrain me! Thank you.

      Reply
      1. Rachel - For Want of a Horse

        There is. I actually
        looked it up once but it was more money than I wanted to spend. Lol

        Reply
        1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

          I need to invent a cheaper version. Didn’t find it on a search but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something out there, lol.

          Reply
  3. Carly

    The heel lifting thing might be a bit of a sasquatch issue, too. I know when I sit in a jump saddle I have a hard time getting my super long legs to hang right and sometimes have to resort to weird things to aid properly. Another reason I rarely leave my dressage saddle now lol.

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Lots of people seem to be commenting that they do it as well so maybe unresponsive horse epidemic? Lol. Interesting about the difference in saddle – I had noticed it between bareback and riding in my saddle although since the clinic it’s been much easier. Now just to make it stick…

      Reply
  4. CobJockey

    I didn’t realize until I read this how much I’ve missed your riding posts!

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Awww thanks. I wish I had time to post more, I have plenty of thoughts in my brain!

      Reply
  5. Stacie Seidman

    I used to feel that way too about feeling like you’re taking time away from someone else if you have to re do something. But at the end of the day, you’re all paying the same to be there, and if they were having an issue, you would be waiting too.
    The point of a clinic isn’t to be perfect and told how great you are. The point is to get some new eyes on you and your horse, and learn some new insights into how to fix issues you are working through. So really, though it may have been disappointing that you weren’t perfect, you did get some new idea on how to work on your weaker areas. So it was a great learning experience!

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      I was sometimes annoyed because other people would go off course despite hearing the course several times and watching other people go. Pet peeve of mine. I didn’t really notice or care when others made mistakes otherwise and repeated stuff yet I’m bothered by myself doing it so it’s a good point. Yes we were all paying a good amount to be there too.
      I certainly didn’t expect to be perfect but prefer to feel like I’m in the better half which I didn’t, lol. You are right that I did learn things and I’m enjoying working on them now while we take a break from jumping.

      Reply
  6. Teresa

    I lift my heel when I feel that Carmen isn’t responding to my leg. It’s a hard habit to break. I love what Stacie said! She is very wise.

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Yes, it’s definitely a responsiveness issue that causes it! I definitely have to keep telling myself to put more responsibility on my horse to get things done (and to not get my knees tight) but it’s feeling a little better already.
      Yeah Stacie is right, I’m obviously being too hard on myself about it. I just feel like I work hard and still progress slow. Shouldn’t compare myself.

      Reply
  7. DianeHitt

    You were great both days. Remember where you were last year; struggling with the changes and getting the step.
    The chill horses are hard. They are great because they don’t spook and could care less about everything, but they can be extremely hard to get working.
    Hang in there. You are doing great with him.

    Reply
    1. Rachel - For Want of a Horse

      I have told her that if she ever wanted a “drop a stride” kind of ride she was more than welcome to ride Winifred. Lol.

      Reply
      1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

        I already had my drop a stride horse with Stampede, makes it easy to get the strides! Lol

        Reply
    2. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      I feel like I am still struggling with changes and getting the step just not quite as bad, lol.
      I do love his chill attitude in many ways! Thanks, I try to do right by him and keep working on things. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. Boss Mare Eventing

    My moms young mare is a bit similar when you ask her to go forward. She will sometimes kick out or get nappy. For the most part its gone but every now and then it appears. My dressage coach has said we have to get it dealt with NOW before it becomes a problem further down the road. We just had a lesson that was solely me asking her forward and her needing to respond.

    Sometimes the whip on the shoulder instead of behind the leg can help when they are reactive like that. Might help prevent some bucks, might not but just thought I would share what I have tried lol

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Oh I’m glad to hear you are doing something similar! Yes I have been using a dressage whip on his shoulder as my extra incentive to avoid the drama. After he ignores my aids I tap him repeatedly on the shoulder until he rushes forward, let him go a bit, then bring him back down and attempt to do the transition lightly off my leg. It works well as long as I continue on but man once he gets to walk for more than a quarter lap he goes back on the lazy train currently. I do think it’s improving so we will just keep on keeping on.
      My main issue was that I was so upset about how he was bracing his neck and back with the correction that I was being too nice about it. He gets over it much faster now that he realizes I’m making it happen. It will be interesting to see if I can eventually go behind my leg again, would be nice to be able to specifically tell the back end to step under more.

      Reply
  9. L. Williams

    I definitely recommend carrying a long dressage whip, then when you ask with your spur (without sacrificing your position) and he ignores you, you can escalate to the next level. Sometimes the young horses just need a bit more patience training (riding in multiple rings, starting work, stopping it, then starting up again) and definitely more fitness.

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      I’ve definitely been carrying a dressage whip every ride since the clinic. Spurs I haven’t been doing because I think I will bring my heel up trying to use them. I’ve been giving him a chance to respond to my calf then just tapping him on the shoulder with the dressage whip repeatedly until he moves forward with some oomph. After a few steps I bring him down to the previous gait and ask again politely and usually get a good response. It seems like we are finally getting somewhere on trot canter transition – it’s not a nice finished one but much more prompt and usually without and flailing of his head and neck.

      Reply
  10. Holly

    I’m late responding here, but wow, I could have written this. Minus that mine is 17 not 7 hah!

    I raise my heel to use my leg too – it’s a terrible habit and so hard to break. My legs are already short enough, I don’t need to be scrunching them up shorter! Doing my warm up with my heel in the front of my stirrup (so stirrup goes behind your foot instead of in front) helps me out and has helped retrain my leg… or start to at least.

    Doc also starts nearly every ride these days throwing a fit about going forward. It’s not pain, it’s not saddle, blah blah blah – once we get through the initial tantrum, he’s fine. But yes, refusal to go and listen and bucking/kicking when I go to my crop. It’s so damn frustrating knowing I’m going to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of every ride (well every ride at home – he ONLY does it at home!) in a fight with my horse. Makes it really hard to have a relaxing, enjoyable ride.

    Reply
    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Interesting on the stirrup exercise, that’s not something I’ve ever done. I’ve been doing a lot of two point and standing in my stirrups along with just making sure I am not letting him get too lazy.

      I’ve never had a horse who does this before and Maestro does a lot more evasions when we are indoors than outside. Too bad we will be inside for the next few months! Funny that your horse only does it at home, it’s exciting and fun to ride around at other places, lol.

      Reply
      1. Holly

        I’d never tried it before my trainer introduced it to me, but it works because as soon as you life your heel, you lose your stirrup. I tried to find a photo of it because it’s hard to explain, but of course I can’t. I know Emma has done it before too!
        And yes – indoors is definitely worse than outside! It doesn’t help the ceiling iin our indoor isn’t super high, so while I logically know I’m not going to hit it when he bucks or kicks, my lizard brain can’t help but have a minor freak out!

        Reply

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