On Saturday July 2nd Daphne and I attended a two-day clinic taught by Lainey Ashker, 4* international event rider and FEI level dressage rider. We had done our homework at home, took some great lessons with Ann Bowie and had some “ah-ha” moments, and hoped it would be enough to be successful with the Training Level group.
Stadium and Gridwork Day
We arrived early at Weatogue Stables in Salisbury CT, went for a walk to stretch Daphne’s legs, and got her settled into her stall so I could go audit the earlier groups. Those who know us know that stadium is not our best phase, so we were ready to jump in with all six feet and make some major improvements. After about 10 minutes of watching riders ride the course that had been set up, I thought to myself- this is going to be a challenging day.
Lainey is one tough lady. She not only expected your best, but demanded it. She stood at the end of a set of 4 bounces to check your position and straightness. “You have to ride them to straightness with your LEGS, not your hands!” Lainey instructed some greener horse/rider combinations that struggled with riding from a triple bar to a skinny vertical in one stride. Details, details, details….. “The best riders take care of everything that goes on in between the jumps. We all know how to jump the jumps.” Sitting and watching rider after rider, and group after group made me quite excited! Every single participant made progress in their lesson. “We need to be quick to discipline [the horse], but even quicker to reward.” Some made it look easy, while others (including myself) had sections that needed to be repeated because it “could be better”. The smile across every rider’s face when they earned the coveted “YES MA’AM!” when they completed work up to Lainey’s standards was contagious. Lainey is a thorough instructor, she dissected every part of you and your position, asked for lots of repetition, and definitely got the best out of every horse and rider that walked into her ring on Saturday.
Buckle up- it is Cross Country Day!
If you weren’t ready to give 100%, staying at the trailer was probably the better option.
Daphne and I arrived a bit early again to watch some groups before us. Daphne, being her exuberant self, made waiting difficult as she was ready to go tackle the Cross Country course. While watching the lessons, my excitement built from seeing others have success, which made the entire group of riders challenge themselves.
We suited up with our cross country gear, and went out to the course to warm up. Lainey started us out with a course of 13 jumps that included jumps from Beginner Novice to Training Level; a Sunken Road (a down bank, two strides to an up bank), a 1/2 picture frame, and a half coffin (ditch to jump 3-4 strides away). After completion of the course, each rider then worked a modified course to focus on things that needed to be improved. Our modified course included a Preliminary Level cabin, the half coffin riding the other way (jump to ditch), then back around to a Trakehner (a ditch with a log on top). As you can imagine, any piece that wasn’t just right was repeated until Lainey was satisfied with the progress and effort. We then went across to another field that had some large Preliminary Level jumps, as well as a combination- down bank, two strides to a chevron. Daphne and I had many attempts at the combination, finally succeeding by tackling this question that neither Daphne or I had experience with.
Last, but certainly not least, we went to the water complex. The course Lainey chose went into and out of the water a few times until we came to two combinations of roll-tops and banks down into the water. Well, a full day’s worth of horses going up and down the bank and in the water (along with my mistake of not being able to get Daphne’s balance back where it needed to be) led to me having my first fall off of Daphne- into the water. Unfortunately, it looked like there may have been a hole in the footing in the water jump, as Daphne tripped and went down with me. We got up right away and were OK- so I pulled off my air vest (that had done its job very well!), got back on, and came back at the combination again, and continued on with the course.
Upon completion, Lainey told me that “we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable”. That line has really stuck with me as I believe it is something that we all need to strive for in our riding. We need to come to every ride, every lesson, and every clinic with 100% effort and attention. We need to trust our instructors/clinicians so they can help us progress and succeed. Their knowledge and skill will enable us to succeed in ways that maybe we did not even see in our futures. I cannot believe that Daphne and I conquered not only Training Level jumps, but some Preliminary Level jumps and questions as well. It is because I decided to ride at 100% of what I was capable of during this clinic that I have raised my own bar- not only in ability, but in confidence in myself and my horse. I could not be more proud of what we accomplished, but now have a new 100%.
Lainey saw the level that everyone arrived with, not as an end point, but as a beginning- whether it be the most beginner Beginner Novice horse and rider, to the most skilled horse and rider in attendance. We need to keep reaching and trying to climb our own mountains. We may slip and fall at times (which Daphne and I took quite literally), but it is only a small bump in our journey. To quote Lainey, “Reach your own “Rolex”, regardless of how many stars lie behind that very goal.” Lainey is-hands down- the most passionate, inspirational and tough (but in the absolute best ways possible) instructor I have ever ridden with. I can’t wait to ride with her again.
Photo Credits: ELG Photography by Eliza Goldberg
Clinic and Event Participants.