Sunday, August 2, 2020

Marc Grandia Clinic: Speed and Accuracy

Saturday was the second clinic date with Marc, this time focusing on Speed and Accuracy. I had accidentally double booked myself for Aug 1 but then one of the events (a 30 mile endurance ride) got cancelled. Boo... but I didn't have to choose at least.

I splurged on myself and got some purple cross country Majyk Equipe boots for Gwyn

Happy ears

For this session, we started with just the gallop and being able to regulate the power, influence and balance by shifting our own body in our rider positions (gallop, balance, three point, two point and landing). Usually I consider myself relatively fit but THIS was kicking my butt, literally and figuratively! So I've dug out my Rider Fitness book and I'm gonna buckle down with that. Remembering that I was really riding on my toes last time, between the two clinics and at this clinic, I really pushed myself to sink into my heels when I was starting to feel insecure. It definitely helped. I did not have any of the tipping issues over jumps that I did last time! So progress there!

This face tho... (Bend your GD elbows...) PC: Stephani
The big thing that we focused on was using our body and seat to signal to the horse. So the lower you go, like a jockey, the more stretch and reach you want from your horse while they maintain the same rhythm with better efficiency but while covering more ground. So we practiced galloping around, with the image of our chest touching our pommel and then rising upright to shorten the stride and act as a signal to balance and focus on the line. It was very core intensive!

He talked about how you watch 2 and 3 star horses who don't seem to change their rhythm on the xcountry course, but you can see the stride change coming into and out of a jump. For a lot of this I was really recalling my time as a jump judge at WEG and it was pulling memories up confirming what Marc was describing. 
Her pointed nose of concentration... 😆  PC: Stephani
I have a conundrum with Gwyn. When she's fresh and ready to gallop, she doesn't offer a lot of steering control, especially if she's magnetized toward other horses or the trailers, etc. And we had a lot of runaway moments, always to the right, where I'd have her nose at my left knee and she was still moving sideways right in the canter. Damn Goober Mare is too flexible. And at one point, she had locked onto a bank complex instead of making a turn toward a steeplechase brush fence. Marc laughed at that and said "She's learning, but she still needs to listen to you." When she started to get tired she was much more willing to rate and steer at the canter. So now I need to figure out how to merge the stamina of fresh Gwyn to the control of tired Gwyn. 

Marc really insisted that in those moments I turn her the direction I intended, otherwise she's learning the wrong thing. Yeah, guilty. I'll accept that. Again, I think I need to go recreate those moments and see what I can do in the moment to fix things. I don't think I had all the tools I could have used ( I didn't carry a bat this time or spurs) but I do want to fix it. 

And I have to say, even with the corrections he demanded, I never felt bad, instead, I felt empowered. He's an amazing clinician and so supportive of the riders. He was fair and wanted you to ride correctly and improve. He was never mean or bullying. 
Again with the nose...  PC: Stephani
Once we'd strung together a couple lines, especially working on letting the horse take simpler questions out of a gallop stride where our position didn't change because we were already ready for the jump being in gallop position, we moved on to accuracy. 
 PC: Stephani
For this, Marc set up three jump blocks as a skinny jump. Something low but that had challenge in the narrowness of it. We went over it as three, then he removed it, we went over it as two and then down to one block. The goal was to teach the horse to lock on and treat any object you present as a jump, and he described how if you really drilled it, you could get your horse to jump a traffic cone. That's serious goals! 
We did well with the 3 and 2 set  PC: Stephani
If the horse didn't quite make it over the blocks, we had to immediately halt and back up to put the horse back on the line. No circling around. Back up. It was as much to teach the horse that, no, I want you to try again with a different answer. Gwyn was the most proficient at backing up of the three mares there 😂  And honestly... was straighter backing up than going forward, a fact that Marc joked about. 
... and even succeeded a few times with the single!  PC: Stephani
We eventually strung all three skinnies together in an S bending line. It was super challenging but SUPER fun and I want to recreate it at home! I think this is an exercise that could really help us. 

Simplified diagram by me
Marc used imagery like keeping the horse on a railroad line made from your legs. What I learned from this is that Gwyn is VERY wiggly between my legs. This was tough! 
She is SUPER intent on the game. PC: Stephani
There was a moment where we made it over the first and she turned and locked onto the second and then we turned again and locked onto the short barrel brush and sliced through it like a dream. It was like I was a teen in pony club again with Clyde where we were fearless and he took care of me over any jump I pointed him at. Everything felt perfect and EVERYONE cheered, even Marc. It was perfect and with all of our steering struggles, we nailed it. Just.... nailed it.  I am still riding that high today!
The final skinny was a short barrel top with brush. We sliced this one to avoid the harder one that was in a line right after   PC: Stephani

The resting period while we all tackled this gymnastics exercise was enough for Gwyn to recover from her long bouts of galloping and when we strung a longer course together with the gymnastics, her steering went wonky again (and Goober Mare was very much present and wanting to GO) 

I had half a mind to take her on some trails because we'd only been riding 90 minutes and only done 4.5 miles of work... she was fit to keep going. She keeps reminding me that she's more fit than I credit her for.  And by that, I mean, she took off on me in the moment between her bridle coming off and me getting her halter on. The Shadowood crew helped me catch her and since I still had my helmet on, I tied the leadrope back onto her halter and hopped back on to ride back to the trailers. Of course she was steerable in the halter and leadrope 😒 😆

She got a bath at the newly installed washracks by trailer parking and then I made her hydrate by dumping some timothy cubes in a bucket of water.
Mom, dis bag here has the good stuff. Imma bite it.

All in all, it was a fantastic clinic.

Quick notes for myself:
  • Shorter stirrups for jumping, this also emphasized after a timely Denny Emerson post on similar topics. My lower leg swings back too much. So shorter stirrups it is
  • Better fitness for myself to be able to hold an effective rider position in the canter/gallop
  • Straightness straightness straightness!
  • Correct in the moment and BACK UP if necessary to reset the horse on the line immediately
  • Tiny jumps in all the ways to work on accuracy!
  • Pre and post-electrolyting with powerade/gatorade before the clinic really helped this human. Use that strategy going forward for endurance rides and shows. I did not finish with a sun headache like last time


  1. Sounds like a great clinic and luckily you didn't have to choose. Haha! And damn... the idea of getting the horse to recognize a cone as a jump is kinda crazy and for sure goals lol

    1. Right? That would amazing levels of training, but also I think what top level riders expect from their horses on the cross country field. A lot of it is "point your horse and expect your horse to navigate the going over of the obstacles while listening to you as the rider pick the line"