Monday, December 13, 2010


I've finally recovered enough to write up my clinic experience. Let me tell you, Spider and I were both sore and tired from our adventure.

I must admit, trailering horses is not my favorite thing in the world. I'm pretty much a nervous wreck from the time I close up the trailer and get into the truck 'til the time I get out of the truck and open the trailer back up. It's not lack of experience, either.... I've trailered horses all over. It's really just me being neurotic. There are just so many things that can go wrong, and we've all heard the horror stories!

Spider does not help my neurosis, either. He is not the best horse to trailer. He loads just fine, I don't even need help to get him on or off the trailer. But the entire time you're moving, he is too. Literally, the trailer rocks from him dancing around back there. I have no idea what he's doing, but it's completely nerve-wracking. And then, when you actually get to the destination...........well, let's just say that Spider knows how to make an entrance!

This time was no different. We arrived at our destination, trailer rockin' and rollin', and found a nice place to park far away from everyone else. I try to keep the debacle that is unloading Spider away from others, out of politeness. The owner of the farm kindly offered to help, so I asked if she would undo the butt bar in the trailer. I also warned her that Spider likes to make a scene, so she should probably stand back.

In true Spider fashion, he waited patiently for me to tell him it was time to back off the trailer, then flew backwards down the ramp and stopped at the bottom to trumpet like a stallion. Then, after being satisfied that everyone on the property knew he had arrived, he proceeded to dance around me in circles like a Lipizzaner on crack. The farm owner's response: "What was all that?"

That, my friends, is how Spider makes an entrance.

He's done this as long as I've owned him, this "grand entrance". The most comical thing about Spider's grand entrance is that he's really not out of control. He never hits the end of the lead rope and he never goes faster than I'm going. He leaps and dances around, looking very big and impressive, but I can easily handle him with just a halter and lead, no need for a chain. It's all just for show, and I indulge him his vanity. Once the saddle and bridle go on he's all business, and that's all I really care about. Plus, I find it sort of amusing. It certainly makes me look like a better rider, being able to tame that "wild beast". If they only knew what a pussycat he is.....

We warmed up without incident. Like I said, once the saddle and bridle are on Spider is all business. He knows his job. The clinic was held in an indoor arena, which was really nice since it was snowing. Just flurries, but they still sting when they get in your eyes.

The other nice thing about riding in an indoor is having walls to work against. My arena doesn't have any fences or walls, and I like that for some things. It really helps with straightness. With no wall to work off of, the horse is just as straight as you are. There's no room for mistakes there. However, there are other exercises that are much better when done against a wall. My trainer knows this, and was lying in wait.

I knew I was in for it when he picked up a driving whip. We were going to bring the activation to a new level, get Spider's rump underneath him and get him really pushing off from the hind end. He had me walk Spider down the wall. He tapped Spider's rump with the whip while I flexed Spider in and out and (tried) to focus the energy up and over his back. If Spider jogged, it was OK. I was not to tighten or stiffen up when he jogged, just supple him. Jogging was not a bad thing, so long as he stayed round and I didn't stiffen. Jogging was actually sort of desired, it meant we were getting a result...more activation of the hind legs. Spider figured out the exercise waaay before I did. I had to be reprimanded several times for getting stiff.

After that, we worked on stretching and suppling at walk and trot. I have a tendency to throw the reins away when allowing the horse to stretch. This is not correct, the horse needs to "chew" the reins from the rider's hand. He needs to remain round and on the bit in spite of having a longer rein.

I was also left with a "trick" to get my hands in the right position. I tend to ride with my hands low and wide with my thumbs pointed in (very bad!). My trainer had me ride with my thumbs pointed out. Straight out. Obviously, that's not correct, either. It's an exaggeration, just like riding with a whip behind your back or riding with no stirrups. You exaggerate the movement, which is uncomfortable and awkward, then the correct position feels right.

All in all, it was a good time. Spider and I managed to not look like the Beverly Hillbillies in front of the auditors. Although, Spider did feel the need to blow and snort at them every time we went near that part of the arena. I ignored it. It was really no surprise, anyway. He does the same thing at the judge in shows. I didn't get to watch too much of the other rides, as I was taking care of my very needy and obnoxious Thoroughbred, but what I did see was nice. There was a nice mix of upper level and lower level horses, "traditional" Warmbloods bred for dressage and "non-traditional" breeds (including an off the track Thoroughbred). I like that sort of eclectic mix, it makes things more fun.

By the way, I put "traditional" and "non-traditional" in quotes because I don't believe in the hype over certain breeds of horse in dressage. Dressage is for all horses, all riders and all disciplines. Some choose to take it a step further and compete in dressage. But, I still don't believe that there is a such thing as a "dressage breed". I've beaten fancy Warmbloods on my Thoroughbred, and I've been beaten by Quarter horses. Take that, DQs.


  1. I totally agree about "dressage type." Certainly, there are horses bred to move exceptionally well as competition horses, but the concept of dressage is training. It is excellent training for any breed of horse, and nearly every discipline.

    I was much offended at a clinic about two years ago, when the trainer made some disparaging remarks about Tucker as a dressage horse. It really put me off to his lesson. The whole point of good dressage work is to make whatever horse you are on better.

    Sounds like your trainer is tough, good, and fair. It's nice that he knows you and Spider well enough to get right to work on what you both needed. You may be sore, but I'd wager you are pretty happy!

    Spider is a card! What a silly boy!! I do have to love his attitude.

  2. Every horse, regardless of breed or confirmation, can benefit from dressage. And horses of almost any breed can have the build and temperament to do more advanced dressage.

    I know what you mean about trailering - I've done 1000 mile hauls and I still hate every mile - and then there was the time Dawn put her head into the trailer window and broke it and bent the bars . . .

  3. Spider sounds sooo much like my OTTB in his show-off neediness on the ground. They are not the horses you can tie to a trailer with a hay bag and relax. I love to indulge his TB pride once in a while too. So glad you had a good clinic. Though Steady would not handle the whip so well but he has his trailering issues too and I am usually nervous on the drive. He has gotten soooo much better than when he first came home to me. Sorry to ramble.

  4. I love your description of Spider's arrival at the clinic. He is Mr. Personality for sure. And I think that its so important to have a horse that makes you laugh. Dressage is hard enough without being serious all the time. He's a good boy to know his job and when to play. -- and the breed comments are spot on. I much prefer my Paint to the WB I had. ...he makes me laugh and he tries his heart out.

  5. I couldn't agree more re your remark on breeds and dressage. Our draft cross has come first in classes with several warm bloods in them, for both my husband and I. I love her so much! Rogo (my first / only warm blood) was beaten by a sway backed ancient pony at his first show, and that made me really happy. Good for the judge for marking correctly.
    Spider's unloading performance is priceless, given that he never hits the end of the line. What a ham. You are so lucky to have a horse with so much personality, yet so great to work with. Sounds like a great clinic.

  6. Thanks for your report. That sounds like pretty serious stuff. I am glad Spider behaved like a star. Because he is that wild Stallion.
    Teena is the same, she loads and unloads fine. But she travels bad, kicking/prancing/screaming at the top of her lungs. Then she is a nervous wrecked at the arrival....

    Yes I agree that DRESSAGE should be for any horses. And perhaps in the US of A you are still able to fend for it. But my friend who competes at national level here in Iatly was critised (written on sheet) for not having a GERMAN warmblood, never mind a WarmBlood. His horse was a French WarmBlood (usually better suited for jumping).

    Perhaps because you have to import the Warmblood in the US of A, they are not so visible or easily bought/reasonably priced.
    But I can assure you there are warmblood lines for dressage. In the field as unbroken 3 yrs old, they canter uphill, or like my WB mare ( but only half German ^-^) had a natural passage, full of expression.

    Think of yourself lucky that you can still practise "proper" Dressage.

  7. Spider certainly does know how to make an entrance. I love it. We have Mellon in the trailer to do the rocking and rolling for us, especially every time a tractor trailer passes.

    As for the "dressage type" I agree with Jean. There is a certain discrimination that I don't agree with going on and I'm put off by it. Each horse working up to their potential should be the aim of every rider and trainer no matter their breed.

  8. Don't you just love it when you have a good lesson.
    I did have to smile when you told us how Spider reacts when he gets to a new place. Little show off. You have to love some of their antics. I am just glad he settles down to business


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