If this is dressage-I’m out

So many options for a title. “It is always the rider”, “Well that sucked”, “Lisa Wilcox Clinic – redux”, “What a disaster”, “Sometimes you learn what not to do”…

I was really looking forward to the clinic, 3 days of rides can really give breakthroughs and improvement, I had ridden with the clinician in June and had good, tough lessons, lots of good work on my position. So, when my friends asked me, eagerly after my first ride of this clinic, “How did it go?”, and my answer was “It was AWFUL”, that is out of character for me.  Most were pretty shocked.

This was not the kind of dressage I am interested in riding. It is too forced, not enough harmony for me.  Horses are remarkably tolerant animals, they really want to please, so they will learn to do what humans want them to do, no matter how unnatural it is, and to a degree, all riding is unnatural, but some methods are nicer than others, even if those aren’t what always win in the competition arena, and not all methods work with all horses, that is why there are shelves full of different approaches and methods, so there will be many riders who love this clinician and had a vastly different experience than mine.

I’ve been journaling and blogging rides, lessons, and clinics (both ridden and audited) for almost 20 years.  I have never left a clinic, apologizing to my horse and figuring out how to get out of the remaining rides until this past weekend…

The good:

  • I learned that I really do need to listen to my gut. When a clinician asks me if I want her to get on my horse, and it is not a 100%, “please ride my horse”, I need to just say “No, thank you, I prefer to do the riding”.
  • Bali is not injured and is likely to forgive me, especially since I was not the one on her back….as I’m finishing this a week later I can add that Bali has forgiven me and other than taking 2 rides to get away from the whip tap = 100% buck/kick, she is back to normal.
  • I was able to get out of the remaining two rides I was scheduled for, and they were filled, so I was not out $500.

The bad:

  • I paid $250 for 10 minutes of walk, followed by a terrible schooling ride, that left my horse worse than she started.
  • I witnessed really bad, front to back riding, on my sweet mare.
  • I did not step in and say “enough” when I should have
  • Bali finally shut down, as mares sometimes do, refusing to canter forward for more than a few steps, in the end just standing there quivering in a halt, kicking out at the repeated thumps of the leg.
  • Somehow it took me until the 4th time watching this instructor to recognize this methodology.

I have since gone and watched non-competition videos of her riding and realize she likes the horses over flexed and behind the vertical, hyper-flexion, intro to rollkur, whatever you want to call it, not a training method my 12 year old mare has ever had used on her.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks that I’m the only one who can ride precious Pookie.  I’ve had Inga get on Bali for 10 minutes, supple her, then put  me back on to feel the improvement…I’ve sent Bali to Inga for a few weeks of training.  I’ve had other instructors hop on, similarly.  I’ve always gotten back an improved horse…always.  Be that hunter, jumper, eventer, or dressage trainer.

There is always a first, and this was a damned expensive lesson to have it be the first…

I watched the clinician have Bali solidly behind the vertical, tight, short neck.  Initially, Bali tried, she had some super uphill canter, and really came underneath herself at some strong half halts, but I was concerned at the BTV, but I did not say anything, and there was never any release. No give, no “that was good” from the rider.  She took a walk break, which is when I should have said “I’ll get back on”.  Instead, my entire lesson turned into a ride that just got uglier and uglier.  The kicking, the thumping, the whizzing of the whip, she rarely hits the horse with the whip, there are no marks on the horse, but most horsemen and women know that you rarely need to actually hit a horse to intimidate them.

She said, “It must be the saddle that is preventing her from coming through her back”, not the locked in, high neck and rigid, “not a bungee” rein that was blocking her, nope.  Or maybe, just maybe, this particular animal is not built to be that flexed, and that’s ok.

I did say that no saddle is perfect, but we had put the tree of that saddle on her back, prior to building the saddle, so I am pretty sure it is a decent fit.  I did not mention my years of being a saddle fitter either.  The problem with the saddle was likely the ass in the saddle.

Then she pointed out that Bali was quivering when she had her halted “On the bit”, so something was obviously bothering her.  This just did not give me a good feeling for harmony, obviously submission was there, to the point of quivering.  Then the next rider is coming into the ring, and I say “so, I’m not going to get back on and get the feel”, so she has me get on and walk for 3 minutes, saying what a great connection I had in both reins.

Her parting words were, “Maybe it will be better next time, Chica”.


About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
This entry was posted in Bali, Clinic Report and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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