Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Red Deer Mane Event Part 3 (final)

Last day! I had hoped to catch Jay Hayes with his Session 2 of Group 2 however with the long days and the hour-long drives in between, I just did not make it out early enough to watch his last clinic in the morning. Too bad, however I picked up so much from this event and I have to be satisfied with that! There is always room for more next time.

So, first on the agenda for our day was Jonathan Field with his clinic on Liberty, which he started off with his young 4yo QH, Tessa (his greenie), and finished with her, Hal, and Quincy - his other QH partners. He started off with a great point: Take all the ropes off and you find out the truth, you find out how much your horse likes you. I've repeated this point of his so many times, because I believe it to be so accurate. The ropes are what hold your horse to you, so remove all those and you see where your partnership is truly at in that moment. Jonathan mentioned that liberty allows expression, it allows your horse to truly express to you how he feels and it can also allow the horse to do what HE wants for a minute, which is important! We sometiems get so caught up doing what WE want, oftentimes without any consideration for the horse even. Some additional main points:
- your relationship with a horse should be say 51:49 draw to drive, the horse should be a little more drawn to you than is driven by you (he should want to be with you), yet there should be a balance: too much draw and the horse runs over you, not enough and the horse runs away.
- draw can be created through liberty work, directly drawing the horse in, or also through hanging out with the horse with no pressure to do anything
- the goal is to send the horse out without them leaving and to draw them in without them coming (ie. they remain on a circle rather than coming in to you or taking off)
- be very specific about what you ask your horse: something he once told us in a clinic I attended with one of my horses was If you don't care, then they don't care. If you don't care where they stop, then they won't either - they'll stop whenever, wherever, however. You have to be specific with your horse. If he moves off when ground-tied, put him back in the EXACT spot you'd originally left him in. If you don't, it won't matter to him then if he takes a step off that spot...pretty soon it's two steps, then four, then pretty quick he's not ground-tying any longer.

He went over ground-tying briefly and how it can be done (create a "sweet spot" and correct the horse if she moves, by putting her back in that exact spot - her responsibility is to stay in one spot until invited out), how to balance draw and drive at liberty in a round pen, and then how to do some liberty work in the full arena. He demonstrated some pretty amazing things, including cutting on the ground with Hal (Hal cutting Jonathan), "picking up" Quincy (ie. having him join Jonathan in partnership in a huge arena with other horses) and having him circle responsibly at liberty (same pace, same size circle, just waiting for Jonathan's next cue), and Tessa remaining on the exact spot Jonathan had left her for just about the entire demo after Hal and Quincy came in, despite the two horses galloping around her. Pretty inspiring!

Dressage with Mette was next on our list for the day! Today she brought in her Group 2, all her higher level students. Some of the points she made during her demo's with the students in the clinic:
- the polls should be the highest point and the horse should NOT be behind the vertical, though this is only achieved at the higher levels
- the collected horse is shorter, compressed
- a horse's neck will come up when he is out of balance, to better balance himself (which can then tell you more about what is going on during your work with said horse)
- a horse that is in the downhill position with its neck tucked in too low, work on transitions and in & outs (forward and half-halts)
- the higher level horses, those that are fully collected, will have a bend in their neck (topline) close to their poll. At the beginning stages of collection the bend is lower down the neck, likely about mid-way
- keep the pace even, all the way to the end (ie. extended trot or such)

Mette started off by having her students do a few exercises before having her CDI student run through an Intermediare 1 dressage test for the crowd, which included canter pirouette, extended trot, numerous flying changes, passage, etc. It was pretty neat to see the finished product (or close to, something to aim towards at least) and both rider and horse performed a fabulous test.

Lastly, we took in the Trainer's Challenge finals, a competition between three trainers to each train a colt. The Trainer's Quest I did last October up in St.Paul, Alberta, actually seems to be modelled almost identically to the Mane Event Trainer's Challenge! Each trainer is permitted 4 one-hour sessions in a round pen with their colt. By the finals, the colt and trainer were judged on:
- leading with respect
- w/t/c
- back-up
- picking up all four feet with ease
- tacking up quietly
-mounting and dismounting quietly
- dragging a pole on the ground by a lariat for 25'
- cross a wooden bridge
- swing a rope from the saddle
- weave through a set of cones at the trot
- walk over a set of ground poles
- freestyle (trainer's choice)

Patrick Hooks from Oklahoma was first up. We had only had the chance to catch one of his roundpen sessions (his third), during which we noticed that he had neither his colt's respect nor his trust (none at all in either area) and that he seemed unable to communicate with his colt. His colt, Sunny, a red dun QH, was constantly trying to nip at him (and I hear had successfully done so during an earlier session) and was very obviously ticked off and unhappy with Hooks. Hooks was also unable to have Sunny move out at all under-saddle. He was very inconsistent with his aids and had no idea of timing and release. This all followed him to the finals in the arena. However, you have to give the man credit for trying and I applaud him for continuously pointing out to the audience that it was not the horse's fault whatsoever for the lack of success. I definitely disagreed with a few of his methods though (he spoke of throwing the horse had he been at home, which I strongly disagreed with), but overall he was okay and he certainly seemed a decent man. For freestyle points, Hooks led his colt up into a trailer and also played a song for him on the guitar (lol).

Next in the arena was Doug Mills. Part of me really wanted to like Mills for his constant stream of jokes and seemingly good nature, but the other - larger - part of me had a tough time swallowing his huge ego. This man was definitely parading and was certainly lacking in humbleness. His horse definitely did well, but I felt the colt was right around where it should have been...nothing special. His ego definitely made me shy from him a bit, because it seems those are the type of individuals who often do not mix well with horses at times. For his freestyle he did trailer-loading as well and then did some bridleless work. I have to admit I resent the bridleless work because I felt that he was trying to flaunt his ego once again, yet he had no control over that colt whatsoever. It remained at the gate end of the arena for the most part (when it wasn't, the colt was headed there), and picked up a lot of speed just zipping around small circles at that end. It seemed like a stunt to gain attention and to impress, but to me it wasn't really all that impressive at all - anyone brazen enough could have done what he did. It certainly demonstrated the colt was comfortable under-saddle (which is great), however the colt was still under no control whatsoever (which others likely may not have noticed had they no clue about bridleless riding or even horses). I felt like it was sort of a cheap trick to leave a false impression in spectators' minds. Perhaps I am incorrect?

Lastly, we watched Mel Hyland on his colt. I really liked this man. There was the odd thing I disagreed with or where I felt he could have done something better, however for the most part he was great - a great man and a great horseman. He came at it from the right angle - from the horse's angle, and was very logical about it; I just really liked what he had to say and what he did in general. His horse seemed to have a great degree of trust and respect for him, despite its apparent difficulty (a little pushy at times). His colt actually seemed similar in personality to the one I worked with at the Trainer's Quest in St.Paul and his colt was about at the same level as mine had been. The colt spooked twice when Hyland went to drag the pole 25' however the horse soon settled down and Hyland got 'er done! Overall I felt he had the best approach and the best colt. His freestyle was trailer-loading and to ride his colt bareback in a halter (which both he and colt performed flawlessly).

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