Monday, May 4, 2009

Linda Zang Symposium May 2009

I applied and was accepted as a demo rider for the SMDA Linda Zang Dressage Symposium May 2-3, 2009. It was very exciting to be chosen, and even though it meant my "2009 educational fund" was tapped out rather early on, it was well worth the money.

This clinic featured the typical Who's Who of dressage warmbloods: Hanoverians, Dutch Warmbloods, Oldenburgs, Swedish Warmbloods, and Holsteiners.

And then there was Dreamy, a Standardbred. The Little Horse That Could. :D YAY!

I trucked Dreamy to the symposium myself both mornings. It was just easier that way. I have been to Spring Creek Farm many times and it is only about 50 minutes from my house. My "free auditor" was my instructor Judy. I was very happy to have her there both days to see me ride.

We left the farm around 6:15AM and got down there a little after 7:00. I had plenty of time to relax, brush her, tack her up, get myself ready, and get on. I will give a run down of each day...

DAY ONE
We entered the indoor around quarter of eight on Saturday morning. I was riding in a semi-private with Leslie E., and she was already in there with her Hanoverian gelding. I walked Dreamy around, seeing as this was only her fourth time in an indoor, showing her the mirrors and all that. I mounted up and she was fine. She was completely relaxed. This was good as I was a little worried. It is such an honor to ride with someone like Linda that I admit I was nervous. People started coming in, but Dreamy and I stayed relaxed. Linda showed up and I was ready to work. We had done a lot of walking and some trotting to warm up.

Then Linda spent the first twenty minutes of my ride talking with the auditors, asking their experience levels, and gabbing on and on about the book she wrote. Now, don't get me wrong, everything she did was fine, but it seemed to me perhaps that stuff could have happened BEFORE my 8:00 AM ride time! I was pretty bummed and figured we would not get a full hour. (As it ends up, we got to ride until 9:15, but still.......)

We started at the walk. She wanted to evaluate the horses and have the auditors understand what a judge is looking for in a walk. She said Dreamy had a "seven" walk that could become an "eight" and that the Hano had an "eight" walk that could be a "nine." Nothing like making me feel crappy about having a "lesser walk" than a HORSE THAT IS BRED TO DO DRESSAGE. So I walked around, trying my best to keep her swinging in the walk and not plodding along in boredom. Poor mare.

I could tell Linda did not think much of the fact that Dreamy is a Standardbred. Plus she kept calling her a Saddlebred and I kept correcting her. (OH and called her a "he" but whatever......grrr. How annoying though!). It did not help we are riding in a semi-private with a GORGEOUS imported Hano who has seriously awesome gaits and costs more than my college education. Because this is a symposium and not just a clinic, she is talking to the AUDIENCE about what we are doing and then asking us to do certain things. Not only do us riders get to learn, but it is taught in such a way that the audience is included too.

So she works with the Hano first and that was fine.....I half listen and half tune out. I was seriously bored at this point, as was my pissy mare. We had been walking now for almost an hour. At least the indoor is GORGEOUS and we get to enjoy looking at ourselves in the mirror.

Then I get to come along and do my trot and canter work. I think Linda was a bit more impressed, as I think she was expecting Dreamy to be much worse than she is. But she called her a Saddlebred again and when I corrected her she said, "Yeah, but she is definitely not a pacer." UM, YEAH SHE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My good god. It was funny because even my instructor was chiming in with the "Um, yeah, she is a STB!"


So the best part of the entire thing is that she thought Dreamy's canter was decent enough to not believe she is 1. A Standardbred and 2. A pacer (*GASP!!!*) And told me that our main problem is she is dropping her inside shoulder and then unable to come completely through her outside shoulder. She had me "counter bending" her at the trot and canter (which will fix both our connection and improve the quality of our canter...both my goals at this clinic) and it essentially made Dreamy bring that inside shoulder UP and then made her body straight. And holy cow did it work! :) Linda left me with the words, "Well this is an easy fix." That sounds pretty good!

I admit I was pretty bummed to only actually work with Linda for about 20 minutes. I was kind of feeling as though it was a real waste of 250 bucks to do this thing, but I had hope when Linda warned us we would surely "work hard tomorrow." I sure hope so! Here are the pics from Day One, taken by Judy.

Nice collapsing on my right side. LOL!


A little strung out and on the forehand.


Better, but behind the bit and I need to SIT THE HELL UP! Grrrr...


Dreamy's famous evasion by going behind the bit. :P


DAY TWO

I arrived at Spring Creek much more relaxed and excited for my lesson. Now that Linda had our number, so to speak, I knew I would be able to really learn something. Having been a bit disappointed on Saturday/Day One, I was really hoping to work hard and LEARN something today.

Here we are at the trailer, ready to roll! She is wearing her SPHO-NJ saddle pad, of course...


We started right off with Linda watching us warm up. She immediately noticed that I was more focused and aware of my outside aids. Dreamy was much more connected (imagine that...) and did not do any of the "sulky hop" steps so many STBs like to do. The photos already show that we looked better. (Yes, I wore my SMDA fleece vest again and my white breeches....but I did change my black shirt.....yesterday's was solid black and this one has small black/white stripes! LOL!!!!!!)

We trotted and walked, and Linda had me do shallow loops along the long side. This was to change the bend but still be on the aids and through. Like this.....



Linda worked first with the Hanoverian. When it was our turn, we trotted and did some cantering. We worked HARD. I knew it was a good lesson because I could BARELY WALK when I dismounted at the end of the hour. I knew my time, money, and effort was well spent.

Here are the many things we worked on:

1. Connection with the outside rein. We all know we are supposed to ride "Inside leg to outside hand." But in every lesson it seemed that riders/horses were NOT truly through that outside rein. I realized I am overbending Dreamy to the inside and ultimately NOT supporting her on the outside rein. This is the root of many of our problems, mainly connection of course.

2. My LEG likes to slide WAAAY back for some reason! It seemed as soon as I got my leg AT the girth, instead of behind it, Dreamy's canter was way better. Plus I was then SITTING UP! She is falling in on her inside shoulder and then her hind end (outside hind) is dangling out there "somewhere." As soon as I got my inside leg right on her, supporting her, then her shoulder came up. Then with my outside rein actually THERE and connected, I was able to help activate that outside hind. As Linda put it, the most important leg at the canter is the outside hind. Hmmm....

3. Dreamy likes to buck! Linda thought her back was sore, but in the times I have had her worked on, her back has never been sore. She had Friday off, and let's face it, Saturday's ride was 45 minutes of WALK, so there was no way I was buying the back hurting thing. Dreamy just was pissed! When I started riding her correctly, she started to BUCK at the canter. I never got unseated, but there were times where it sure did surprise me! I was not that worried, but I never knew when it might happen! LOL! So that is the pic at the top of the blog for now......a perfect bucking picture. here it is, when the time comes for me to change the top photo, which I like to do every few weeks....

So Linda put a folded up towel underneath the cantle of the saddle. And she made me put my stirrups up one hole. The towel made me feel as though I were sliding down a staircase. The higher stirrups made me feel like a hunt seat rider. Great. But it did seem to help me keep my leg AT the girth, rather than slid way back 10"!




Working on my leg....now it is too far forward. But I am trying!


Now here, Dreamy looks fabulous! But WHAT am I doing with my LEG?????


4. Her canter....well it seems that with a consistent connection especially in my outside rein and my legs AT the girth, our canter will improve. It did improve tremendously just in the time I rode on Sunday! That made me feel good.

The one thing that we need to work on is the downwards transition. For one thing, she loses her ability to bend. I am not kidding, it is like riding a 2 by 4. I need to keep her bent around my inside leg. Plus not only will it help her connection and suppleness to be bent properly, but also there are a few strides right from the canter to the trot that are usually pacey. As Linda described it, she is cantering along, and then her head shoots up, her back braces, and she gets VERY rigid in her wither/neck area. This in turn causes her to pace. It is almost like....."OK canter, canter, canter, this is fine...I start to ask her to slow down and she goes "OMG OMG OMG......ah! Ah! AH!" and this is when she is pacey discombobulated mare. Then we come to the trot and it is stiff, stiff, stiff, so I bend her as best as I can. I need to time my aids better so I am asking for that bend AS we are coming from the canter to the trot to eliminate her moments of OMG!

Here I am trying SO HARD to keep my leg at the girth and sit up, that it looks as though I have also raised my chin! LOL!


One of our last canters......finally she is looking like a dressage horse!

We were both sweaty and tired by 9AM. But I was ECSTATIC! We had done so well and made marked improvement in our lessons. I am so glad I spent the time and money. Linda REALLY knew her stuff and with just one small movement or change, the horse moved MUCH better, if not perfectly. She was demanding yet kind. I liked her teaching style and would jump at the chance to ride with her again.

Despite my misgivings on Saturday and the fact that Linda initially seemed off-put with my Standardbred dressage horse, I felt like I had really made progress in my horse and in Linda's opinion of her. She actually even said something during one of our last trots to the effect of, "Now look...she actually looks like a Second Level horse now." WHOOOO! Linda does not seem the type to freely give such comments, so I was VERY pleased to hear THAT! :)

Overall, I am pleased with our experience at the symposium and would do it again in a second if I got the chance. THANK YOU SMDA! :) And thank you to Judy for being not only a great instructor, but also a great photographer. I really lucked out with Judy. She is exactly the person I need to be learning from right now. Plus, she is NOT threatened by me taking clinics with others. That is just so nice, because while Judy is my "instructor" I do enjoy clinics. And I must publicly brag that everything Linda had us work on over the weekend is stuff that JUDY has already picked up on and has me working on. So it felt good to know that Judy is on the right track....not that I ever doubt her, but I think she should feel good to know that her teaching/training is in line with a world renowned "O" judge like Linda Zang!

Now if only it would stop raining so I could practice what I learned....and get ready for our tests at NEDA Spring this weekend! :D



3 comments:

  1. I am wondering where the photo at the top comes in! I am guessing day 2. And sorry it was not the best. She is such a great rider I had high hopes she would be a wonderful teacher. And you have made me very happy for a very bizarre reason. Check my blog out tomorrow!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, I definitely had a good time. Sat was disappointing, but Sunday was FANTASTIC!

    I am anxiously awaiting to see your blog....... ??? :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great Job! Dreamy and you will knock them dead this weekend. Go STANDARDBREDS!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for leaving a comment!