Photos by Kathy Zeigler Art & Photography.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a clinic with Lynn Palm at Clearview Horse Farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee. I love attending events at Clearview. It’s not only a great location, but it’s a quick 20 minute drive down mostly country roads for me. Easy haul! In this case, I’d been anxiously awaiting this weekend for months.
I first met Lynn at Southern Equine Expo in February of 2016. Her lecture on Dressage geometry was tremendously helpful in explaining how to calculate the size of your circle in an arena. What impressed me the most about Lynn was her focus on the rider. So often, we forget that 99.9% of the time WE are the problem. I also found that she had a way of telling you the truth without being mean or hurtful. In teaching, that is a tremendous gift. The truth is hard to hear but absolutely necessary if you want to grow.
I wrestled with which horse to take. If I took Comanche, we could work on refining and getting ready to move to the next level. I always have fun with Comanche, so the weekend would be a blast. On the other hand, Buttons needs to make trips off the farm before we start showing next year, and we’re struggling. We’ve had minimal improvement in the six months I’ve been riding and training her. We’ve never had fun. Every ride has been an argument since day one. On the ground, she’s a peach; in the saddle, she’s been a pain.
I decided to take Buttons. I knew the weekend would be a challenge, but I wanted to take the opportunity to get Lynn’s expertise in fixing our relationship, so we could make more progress and get in the show ring next year. I also wanted to see how she would do riding in a clinic environment.
We arrived early. As usual, she trailered well. She wasn’t thrilled with being the first one on our aisle to fill a stall, but she ate her hay and settled in nicely. We had a 9 o’clock meeting with Lynn before riding. I made sure Buttons was groomed and ready to go after the meeting.
Since she’s young and it was her first time at Clearview, I walked her around the arena in both directions. When I sent her out on the lunge line, she exploded. I settled her down and worked her for a little bit. When I sent her out in the other direction, she did the same. Lynn encouraged me to take her to the roundpen and let her play, which we did.
I got back into the arena in time to ride with the last group being assessed. I didn’t wear spurs or carry a whip, so she brought her worst behavior. It was like rewinding back before the last 6 month. She was downright ugly.
We rode in the first group in the afternoon where Lynn focused on strengthening the riders position. It’s been two years since I’ve taken lessons consistently, and it shows. My lack of trust in Buttons has manifested itself in looking down, leaning forward, and gripping with my legs, all of which hinder our performance.
I arrived early to again make sure Buttons was clean and ready to go before our 9 o’clock meeting. I knew something was up when I tried to clean her teats, and she squealed and tried to kick me. I confirmed it when we went to the roundpen, and she was flirting with the gelding over the fence. She was in heat.
She was even more spirited than she’d been the day before, and we we slated to ride with 6 other riders, so I opted out of the morning session. I didn’t want to take the chance that someone would get kicked.
We rode in the second session at 2. While our ride was far from stellar, we did make noticeable progress. For the first time in a while, I felt hopeful that we’d actually be ready to start showing in the spring.
In addition to some great exercises for improving transitions and arena geometry, I learned two valuable lessons over the weekend. First, I have a great horse, and I need to learn to trust her. Second, I need to get back to taking regular lessons. While I love clinics, I make more consistent progress when I can get regular feedback from a coach.
Lynn is a fabulous teacher, who really helped me have some great light bulb moments. I am very much looking forward to planning a trip to her farm for another clinic!