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Monday, December 5, 2011

Jack's Review of the Eric Dierks Clinic

WOW, what a day I had on Sat!  Rugby, Wie and me were loaded up in the trailer and went to a place where I was ridden in my first clinic.  The whole day was a new experience for me.  It was my first time in an indoor arena. I really didn't think it was necessary because it was a nice day but I guess the ground was a bit frozen and icy out side.  Anyway it wasn't bad in there because I had my friends Wie & Rugby with me but there were two other horses in there that I didn't know.  Then I kept seeing horses moving along the wall and disappearing.  It was really weird.  I even tried calling to them a few times but nothing.  I was told that they were only reflections of the horses who were in the ring.  I still don't quite understand, something about mirrors.

Anyway Eric seemed like a nice guy and every now and again we would stand around and listen to him talk.  He was talking about riding the track, the balance, the rhythm with the correct amount of energy.  All I was thinking was how was I going to be able to do all that?  Then I heard him say that all of that was the riders job and that all I was responsible for was where I was putting my feet, the footwork.  Sounded easy enough, after all I have been to a horse show and didn't look at a single fence or knock one down. Well I found out that I've got a lot to learn and that just getting over the jump is just the beginning.  Now we have to learn to use the proper technique and using my body properly.  I'm not sure what all that means, but when I see Jackie bending over to pick up poles Kyle is going to have to remind her to bend her knees, lower her center of gravity (what the  heck is that?) and pick up the rail with he whole body and not just her arms and back.  How that is suppose to relate to me jumping correctly I don't quite know but the riders seemed to understand and I guess that's the important part, after all I'm only responsible for the footwork.

We started out trotting over four poles in a row and when I got to the first one I said whoa baby and stopped at the first pole because I didn't know how I was going to fit my feet in there.  Kyle encouraged me to go and I somehow got through the poles but not very smoothly.  We kept coming and Kyle was working on his job and then allowing me to figure out my job which as you recall was the footwork.  I actually figured it out faster that Wie (who has done this before) so I was pretty proud of myself.  Poor Rugby had never done anything like this before and it was pretty entertaining watching him figure it all out. Kevin did a nice job with him and Rugby relaxed and finished up the exercise really well.  After trotting the 4 rails on the ground Eric raised the 2 poles in the middle.  I didn't notice he had done that at first and hit one pretty hard and got off balance and out of rhythm.  Well I didn't like that very much so I was sure to check things out a little better the next time and didn't touch a thing and was able to keep my balance & rhythm better by using my body better.  Being in charge of the footwork was a little harder than I thought, but I'm figuring it out.

Next we trotted over a little gate in the middle of the ring, no big deal in fact it was a little boring, but I guess Eric wanted to see us jump a little fence before he started to challenge us a little bit.  So he raised the jump a little and again no problem, but apparently just getting over the jump isn't good enough. Now we all stopped and we listened to Eric described how all of this is like a dance and that we were going to learn the dance steps.  Again I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about but Kyle did and I guess that's what counts. 

Eric placed a pole before the jump that we had to trot over and I had to figure out how to fit my feet in there properly and jump over the gate.  The exercise was to again help us figure out the footwork  and after Kyle got me on the right track with the right balance, rhythm and energy he was instructed to let me figure it out with enough encouragement from his leg.  I'm really lucky to have Kyle riding me because he's really good at his job and that makes it a lot easier for me.  Some of the riders got a little out of balance and didn't maintain the track and their horses had a little difficulty with the exercise.

Again Rugby was a bit entertaining because he has such long legs he didn't think he needed to jump at all, he was just trotting over the jump.  He's like me though, after he hit it he didn't want to do that again so then he figured out what to do to get his feet out of the way.  Wie was pretty good but he wanted to get a little crooked to make more room between the rail and the jump so he didn't have to work so hard.  He got a little grumpy when Jackie told him he had to remain straight and work a litter harder.  But then he figured it out and made a good effort and looked really good and Jackie gave him lots of pats.  It was really nice to get fussed all over and told what 'good boys' we were when we did it right.  I kept hearing Eric telling riders to love 'em up.  I think I like this Eric guy.

After we figured out the pole we did a pole to an X to another pole.  Yikes now I had to figure out where my feet go immediately after I jump.  After a couple awkward attempts I got a lot of 'lovin' and got to take a break and watch the others.  After everyone had their turn, the poles were on the landing side were made into an X and I didn't realize the change had been made even though Kyle was trying to tell me by putting more leg on.  I got to say I did some unusual footwork.  Front feet over the jump, then back feet, bounce stride, then front feet, back feet over the second X.  Wow that was hard work,  I have to figure out a way to make that a little easier.  So with Kyle's encouragement I jumped the pole on the ground took a bounce stride to the X which I jumped then took a strong bounce stride and jumped the second X.  Everyone started to laugh and Eric made some statement about my dancing that I didn't really understand.  I didn't take offense to the laughing as everyone was saying what a good boy I was and I got lots of lovin'.  The next couple of times I smoothed things out a little bit and I was having so much fun I continued the bouncing and jumping even though there were no more jumps ;)  I was having fun and really proud of myself.

I had a pretty good break after that time because one of the horses was having a little trouble figuring it out.  That's when I realized that although we had plenty of breaks I had NEVER had a rider on my back for this long before in my life...whew!  So when it was my turn to go again and Eric had added a third fence one stride away from the second one I wasn't 100% mentally and physically there. I got in there and my legs were going every which direction.  I still managed to get through it in the right striding but even I knew it wasn't right.  That's when Eric and Kyle realized that I was probably getting a little tired but we needed to finish on a good note and I agreed.  So I came through it again, focused on my job and if I must say so myself jumped through the exercise brilliantly!!  Kyle immediately hopped off me loosened my girth and made a big fuss!!

I got to watch Rugby and Wie and because they're older than me they got to finish with a jump called an oxer. That's a jump that is wider than a regular jump; I've done those before and could have done that too but maybe next time when I'm not so tired.  Anyway not only did Rugby have his footwork down, for the first time all day, he really jumped and Kevin and Eric were happy and he got to quit and and get fussed all over too.  Wie was next and he really was making a good effort.  On one fence he jumped so hard he let out a grunt.  It was kind of funny.  Anyway he got lots of lovin' too.

The three of us learned a lot and had a lot of fun and can't wait to practice what we learned so when Eric comes back we can show him how we can dance like Michael Jackson (whoever that is).  While we were back at the trailer getting ready to go home I heard Jackie talking about how good all were but she kept saying that I was the STAR of the group.  I like how that sounds!


Wow, sounds like Jack and the boys had a really good time.  I'm jealous.  I was suppose to go to a another dressage show but there were so many entries we didn't get to go.  Oh well, I have been enjoying my mud bathes lately.