Monday, January 20, 2020

Gymnastics Clinic at Donida Farm

My day started early. Since Cortney couldn't get her trailer down the hill at her house due to slushsnow, she planned to ride down and have her husband drive some of the less easily packed items like a hay bag and bucket. I would meet her at a trailer accessible parking lot 2 miles from her house and we'd load up there. 

From the espresso stand's FB page
So I met her at a bank, after she'd acquired coffee, 4 year old mare Reign in hand. We packed her things up, waited for her husband to come down too (he was held up by someone driving SUPER slowly down the hill)              

Gwyn's hay was decidedly the more delicious of the two, apparently
It was only 45 minutes from pick up to the farm and we arrived perfectly in my expected window.
It's a nice property. And for sale if you have a couple million lying around...
We couldn't show out of the trailer but a stall was included in the clinic cost. So we unloaded the horses and tack, then I parked. And we got checked in and tacked up!
See what I mean by nice?  They have several all weather outdoor rings, and a cross country course and track.

Warm up poles
There were five riders in each session, which was just enough. For the most part we took turns doing each exercise since there were two GIANT warmbloods who dwarfed Gwyn, Gwyn, Reign and a little quarter horse. Striding was not matched at all.

We started over three ground poles to get our horses focused on their feet and realizing what we were focusing on today. Then we moved on to the first exercise that was built up over time. The goal was to learn where our horses wanted to drift and also to learn if they were going to speed demons *cough* GWYN.

We introduced this exercise at the walk first, then went through at the trot. Then the final pole was raised on one side, then the final two, etc..  Gwyn wanted to rush through this, so in that middling space I really asked her half halt and almost fully halt to keep her from barreling through. The clinician, GB, really wanted us to let the horses stretch down and use their backs through these exercises but I was having a hard time with having Gwyn actually listen to my seat so I could get out of her face. Plus, Gwyn wanted to be with her buddy Reign the whole time.

I want to try these exercises at home to see if I can have her brain in one piece and get some better results. We did end each exercise with improvement in all the horses, so that was really nice though!

Next up was the triangle set up. I really liked this one for teaching bending and flexibility.
This particular set up is extremely versatile. There are SO MANY options and ways to increase difficulty as your horse becomes more balanced and skilled.

We started with guide rails to encourage straightness to start. 

 We started by coming in and just plainly exiting at the tip of the triangle. It's more difficult than it sounds, especially if you're struggling with straightness. Gradually we added in loops. So in on the flat side, out the pointed, turn to come back in. It requires a tight, balanced turn at the trot. Repeat in the opposite direction.
 Next version we did we kept coming in the same direction but our exits changed each time. This mimicked more a bending line. More often than not, Gwyn and I ended up drifting more to the point part of the exit when we had a bending line. This was also the version where Gwyn tossed me the metaphorical middle finger and blew through my outside aid toward Reign. Which Cortney got on video.

Finally we used the channel created by all the parallel poles to work on turn on haunches or forehand, depending on the comfort level. You can do this at walk, trot and canter as your skill increases. And use the inner channel at a trot once you can do the outer channels at a canter. I opted to remain at a walk.
This was Reign's second time at the clinic. She did really well for being 4!

Next up was the Bow Tie exercise.

They called it a bowtie. Drawing it out... it's an axolotl

The outer edges of the poles are raised and the poles were marked in their center, where the average trot stride length would be. You can treat this as a circle and then treat it as a figure 8. The center of our exercise was a skinny pole flanked by two barrels.
This was the exercise where Gwyn FINALLY started using her brain and I was able to metaphorically and literally let go and trust her.

In the video you can see me let go, and Gwyn magically lift her back, drop her head and balance. This wore her out. I'm setting it up at the barn.

Next up was this simple square. We basically did a clover leaf pattern in both directions, at the trot. Also difficult with those tight turns. You need to have a balanced trot.

Finally, we did a pattern with a set of cones on the ground. We very shallowly serpentined at the trot forward through the cones, then halted at the last cone and serpentined backing up. This was DIFFICULT! With Gwyn at least. My aids were likely too strong and she was overswinging her haunches rather than having a mild change.  More things to practice!

I debuted a new running martingale that's MUCH faster to put on since it isn't a 5 point. I really like the gray color! Plus the running attachments clip on rather than buckle so I could theoretically not have to unbuckle my reins every god damn time I untack or lead her around.

We were color coordinated in purple and teal. LOL
Cortney and I hung out and chatted with a friend from WAY back when I first brought Gwyn to Washington. She had been in the first group. It was so nice to see her and catch up. Then we packed up, loaded and cleaned the stalls as requested before heading back to the bank.

Mount Si 
Back to the bank where we unloaded Reign and Gwyn got upset while Reign ignored her.

Cortney's husband drove down to pick up the extra stuff and Cortney hopped up and started her 2 mile ride back home!

Then I headed home to handle my own stuff. Usually our drives home are enough time for Gwyn to dry, then I brush out the sweat marks and out she goes. It makes leaving her fully furry manageable, despite the sweating that occurs.

With my new job, I'm thinking of clipping her like Reign and paying for the blanketing. Especially since the cold doesn't last as long as Michigan and if we continue our 3-4 hour conditioning trail rides, she'll feel better if she can cool down faster while on the trail.


  1. Thanks for posting about this clinic! I will have to find someway to incorporate these exercises into my upcoming rides!

    1. I set up the triangle one yesterday and it was great for adding in variety to keep my ADHD brain occupied.