I took two students, Abby (13) and Ciarra (11), to the NWDA Jr/YR Clinic a couple weeks ago over in the Duluth, MN area. It was a two-day clinic in the middle of the week, so their parents had to pull some major strings at work to get the time off, but I'm very glad that we were able to make it happen because the clinic was a great experience. And these two girls don't take their parents' support for granted. I am continually impressed by how appreciative and respectful they both are.
This was the first time both these girls had taken their horses anywhere. I really wanted them to have the practice before we head to their first horse show in August. Ciarra's little Arabian mare, Kismet, is green (as in, they pulled her out of a pasture a year ago and she was basically unbroken.) Abby's Thoroughbred mare, Calypso, used to frequent the local hunter/jumper shows, but hasn't been to a show in probably five years now.
Everyone, including me, was a little nervous about how the horses would load on the trailer and behave away from home, but they were perfectly behaved from start to finish. I believe that this is due to the hours upon hours that these girls spend with their horses, bonding with them and building trust. Neither of these horses had been in a trailer in over a year, and the last time we tried to load Calypso (a couple years ago) she put up a major stink. That was before Abby came along and started leasing her, riding twice a week and spending many hours grooming, pampering, tooling around bareback, etc. When she asked Calypso to get in the trailer, the mare hesitated for a second and then followed her in calmly. Kismet also walked right in behind her devoted human (who feeds her an ungodly amount of delicious homemade treats.)
Day One of the clinic was Dressage, and Day Two was jumping. This was a great format for my students, because it gave the girls a chance to get comfortable with Jodi Ely, their horses a chance to get in the new ring and settle in, and Jodi a chance to see the horses move and the students' equitation, skill level, and weak spots. Jodi was fantastic–full of energy, funny, complimentary but not too soft in her corrections. My girls responded great to her and took her corrections very well.
It can be nerve-racking as a trainer to watch your students lesson with another trainer, in front of their parents no less, but Jodi was very complimentary of how both girls are doing. Phew! ;) I saw the girls' confidence grow over the course of the clinic, and that was my main goal for them.
Of course, the jumping day was the girls' favorite part. Jodi had them start out with ground-poles, then a short gymnastic, then a longer gymnastic, and finally a whole course with the gymnastic as part of it. They did phenomenal, and their horses were good sports. Kismet even picked up her right lead canter multiple times, which has been a main challenge for her/Ciarra, and Calypso didn't turn into a race-horse mid-course but kept a steady hunter-y canter throughout!
I'm working on uploading video from the clinic to our Youtube channel, and I'll post it here once that's done.
I couldn't be more proud of how Abby and Ciarra rode, handled themselves, and took care of their horses at the clinic–from picking up manure to congratulating the other riders, they were great sports and very mature. A big thanks goes out to the girls' families for helping to make this clinic possible, to our wonderful host Jen at River Ranch Arena (it is a beautiful and comfortable farm), and Jodi for the great experience.