Despite all the COVID-19 related craziness we still had a Mark Leone clinic the weekend before Thanksgiving this year. There were of course less people allowed to audit and safety measures in force, but it was nice to do something slightly normal. I personally did not stick around and watch any other groups ride, it didn’t feel right to me despite how much I would have enjoyed watching. There is always next year.
I didn’t get to do the clinic last year since I was between horses (I watched some sessions), but you can read about my experiences in 2018 and 2013. (Side note – going back and reading my 2018 clinic post is eye opening as it relates to the ultimate way things worked out with Maestro.)
On Saturday of the clinic Ernie was a bit spicy which is unusual for him. Having eight horses in the ring and doing lots of transitions really got him flustered. Canter to trot transitions are something we struggle with so it’s not too surprising that doing many of them got both of us a bit strong after starting off somewhat tense anyway. Once we got jumping he got better, but Mark was definitely under the impression that he might be a forward and strong horse as we ate up some of the lines easily. Funny to think about with my normally chill guy.
Sunday Ernie rode more like I was expecting the day before. Still some struggle with tension on the flat (those transitions!) but more reasonable and normal for him.
A fun start to our jumping Sunday was an exercise where we had to trot through two poles (set for a canter stride, we had trotted and cantered through them earlier) at the end of the ring then trot a fence across the short side of the middle of the ring, turning right five strides to a vertical before going back to the trot and over the middle fence again and left 5 strides to a vertical. It really highlighted how different your horse naturally goes turning opposite directions so you had to think about adjusting accordingly. Every horse has a preferred direction after all.
We did some fun patterns with lots of bending lines, which is what Mark is known for. The video below is my last course of the clinic.
My main takeaways from Mark were to pick my hands up (My riding brain thinks hands down = softness) and to just keep plugging away at the canter to trot transitions. It’s funny because I was warned about Ernie’s canter to trot transitions when I tried him. Some days it’s like I find the magic button and I can do them fine (like at the Meadowview show this summer) and other times we are going around like he’s the tensest llama. Always something to work on. 🙂
Mark, as always, is such a positive instructor and really helps you focus on being a thinking rider. He is always reminding you to consider the best line to take, what adjustments need made for the strides, what way does your horse prefer to turn, etc. Looking forward to doing another one of his clinics in the future!