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Wizard Ride 174: Suzie Hehn Clinic

September 1, 2010

Thursday, 8/26/10

After such a long time with any riding lessons and just a camera to tell me how Wizard and I look, it was such a positive experience to have an experienced horsewoman evaluate and work with us. Suzie Hehn is a local judge, as well as a wonderful rider.

The focus of the clinic was on working toward a successful experience in the hunter ring, but dressage and other disciplines were discussed as well. There was a very nice balance of evaluation of the ability of horse and rider, exercises for improving horse and rider, and the overall impression that the horse and rider would give in the show ring.

My clinic session was a flat class, working at the walk, trot, and canter. She was pleased with our walk, especially since Wizard’s walk is purposeful and balanced. At the trot, she first evaluated my position, and then worked on how to get a more balanced ride out of Wizard. One of the most important pieces of information I gleaned from the clinic was that my hands are a little shaky. She saw some movement in them at the trot at times and thought it might be contributing to Wizard’s busy mouth- he tends to over-work the bit sometimes. I could never really see it in photos, but it made a lot of sense. Once I really concentrated on “posting into my hands” and keeping them truly still and soft, Wizard responded. Sometimes little details like that are impossible to feel from the saddle without a pair of eyes on the ground.

Bitting was also discussed, and I’m planning to keep trying bits to see what Wizard likes best. Suzie also agreed that trying different adjustments on the cheekpieces of the bridle was a good idea- some horses like the bit to float lightly in the mouth and some prefer more stability.

Our session consisted of four horse/rider pairs, including us. It was a hugely helpful training experience to ride in a group and it made me much more confident for future show experiences. Wizard was absolutely perfect at the walk and trot, and got a little keyed up at the canter but settled really nicely in the group. For most of the clinic, canter work was done in pairs or individually, but all four of us did canter at one point and Wizard exceeded my expectations.

At the trot, it was suggested to take a little more contact of the bit. It seemed counterintuitive to the work I’ve been doing with “floating” the reins and trying to get Wizard moving forwardly, but the contact seemed to relax him into a nice rhythm and it balanced him nicely. It’s the same advice I received from a friend out west who rides dressage- now that two respected and experienced horsewomen have suggested it, I need to really take the advice seriously :^) Our speed was also appraised- Suzie felt that I might be able to get a little more impulsion going and a more blanced trot by slowing our speed down just a tic. My work on forward and soft is creating great results, but it’s time to take more contact and expect a little more from the horse.

At the trot, Suzie introduced lateral work, first as a leg yield, then as a shoulder-in. To the right, Wizard’s work was quite nice. I grinned from ear to ear when Suzie remarked that it was obvious that we do a lot of work on these movements. We did a leg yield off the wall to the quarter line, and then back to the wall in each direction. We worked on shoulder-in down the long side of the arena. I was reminded that it’s okay to exaggerate my inside and outside legs during this work, and it was quite effective when I slid my leg back a little more than usual in each direction- I could feel Wizard really bending around me.

Circling was discussed, and Suzie encouraged me to invite Wizard into more circles at the canter as we gain balance and a more steady tempo. I could feel him getting strong when we left the circles, but a half halt brought him back to me reasonably well. Below is a video of a little bit of canter work, and you can see him resisting my half halt a little and then responding- I was a little too messy with my hands.

This was the first time I’ve seen myself on video riding Wizard; this, too, was extremely helpful… and humbling. Sometimes I feel much more balanced than I really am. From seeing this video, I realize I have a long way to go- I also realize that I need to exercise more and lay off the carbs!

As an aside, YouTube has a funny feature that allowed me to do an audio swap and add music. I chose Magnapop, a band I fondly remember from high school/college. Another artist available for these audio swaps is Mike Ferraro, who is releasing a full-length album soon with a band which includes my husband :^)

The clinic was a fantastic experience, both for schooling Wizard and for receiving excellent comments and suggestions. Onward and upward!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 5, 2010 4:23 pm

    I think you both look great! The progress is wonderful. 🙂

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